Mosquito identification confirmed as Asian Tiger Mosquito

6 March 2007

A mosquito caught in a trap at Shed 8 at the Ports of Auckland on March 1 has been confirmed as an Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and the Ministry of Health’s initial response handed over to MAF Biosecurity New Zealand.

The male mosquito was an unexpected catch in the trap, which usually attract females, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand Environmental Response Manager Sonya Bissmire said. Work to determine if there were any more Asian Tiger Mosquitoes was continuing.

“Although so far we’ve only found one mosquito, we have to take this seriously because this particular mosquito species can be a vector of several human diseases,” she said. These include Dengue fever and Yellow fever.

Asian Tiger mosquitoes breed in anything that contains water, and work was ongoing to identify and treat potential breeding sites around the port area. Surveillance had been increased and more traps deployed in the area, Ms Bissmire said.

“Right now, we’re working hard with the Ministry of Health and other agencies to determine the situation we’re dealing with and contain, control and eliminate it if there are more. We can’t say at this stage if we’re dealing with a resident population of these mosquitoes or if it was imported.

“Obviously, we hope it’s not a population, but we can’t be entirely sure with the limited information we have at the moment, and we have to be certain. What shape this response takes will be dependent on the information we get in coming days.”

Ms Bissmire stressed that the response was still in its initial phase, and it was still too early to say what form future action might take. The public of downtown Auckland or around the port could help by reporting unusual mosquito activity – such as aggressive daytime biting – to the Ministry of Health mosquito surveillance number 0800 MOZZIE (0800 669943).

“Reports from the public of unusual mosquito activity will help us determine what we are dealing with. Asian Tiger mosquitoes can bite up to 48 times an hour, and unlike most local mosquitoes, bite mostly during the day, in shaded areas.

“There are many actions people can take to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. These include wearing and frequently reapplying insect repellent, and wearing light-coloured, long and loose fitting clothing,” Ms Bissmire said.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito has been detected in New Zealand ports before and is an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Media contact: Phil Barclay, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand Senior Communications Adviser, 029 894 0432.

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