Mossie plague averted by record spray

4 November 2011

A record 469 hectares of Top End swampland has been sprayed in one week, saving residents of the northern suburbs of Darwin, and the nearby rural area from a major salt marsh mosquito plague, according to Director of Entomology Peter Whelan.

"Perfect conditions of heavy rainfall followed by the highest tide this year to date caused a huge hatch of salt marsh mosquitoes in Leanyer, Holmes Jungle and Mickett's swamps," he said.

"Evaluations have shown complete control in the area sprayed, which was very extensive and with very high concentrations of larvae, indicating we have averted a major plague.

"Other breeding spots around Darwin including Lee Point, Sandy Creek, Charles Darwin Park and Ludmilla Creek have been treated by ground applied slow release mosquito hormone pellets and briquettes."

Mr Whelan warned that although the control measures had been successful, residents in mosquito-prone areas could still expect large numbers of the pests and should protect against being bitten.

"Salt marsh mosquitoes can carry the Barmah Forest and Ross River viruses and we are now entering the high risk period for these debilitating diseases," he said.

"We are expecting to see a substantial pest problem from now until mid-November in the Darwin area, due to an influx of mosquitoes from the huge breeding areas at the mouth of the Howard River and other areas around Shoal Bay, which are outside of our 5 kilometre limit of control."

The rest of the Northern Territory can expect elevated numbers of mosquitoes near coastal areas and within 10 kilometres of large brackish swamps and larger tidal creeks and rivers.

Information on where and when mosquitoes are expected to be most prevalent is outlined below and can also be found on the Department of Health website: www.health.nt.gov.au

 Darwin: 

  • Leanyer
  • Karama
  • Buffalo Creek
  • Holmes Jungle
  • Winnellie
  • Lee Point

Palmerston: 

  • Mitchell Creek
  • Brookings Creek
  • Hudson Creek
  • Elizabeth River
  • East Arm

Rural Area: 

  • Noogoo Swamp
  • Millners Swamp
  • Howard Swamp
  • Knuckey's Lagoon
  • Robertson Barracks
  • Howard Springs Recreation area
  • Channel Island
  • Wickham Point area

 Tidal Floodplains: 

  • Daly River
  • Lower Adelaide River
  • Mary River
  • Lower Alligator Rivers
  • Lower Roper River

Inland Areas: 

  • Jabiru
  • Adelaide River Township
  • Katherine

Mr Whelan says people infected with Ross River or Barmah Forest virus may develop a wide range of symptoms, the most common of which are:
 - painful or swollen joints (particularly in the hands, ankles and knees) 
 - sore muscles
 - aching tendons 
 - skin rash
 - fatigue
 - fever
 - headache
 - swollen lymph nodes

"Symptoms generally last for a few weeks or months, though in some cases they can linger for up to 12 months," Mr Whelan said.
"Protection against bites is the best course of action as there is no vaccine to prevent Ross River or Barmah Forest virus."

People in the Top End experiencing mosquito pest problems are advised to:
 - avoid locations near coastal swamps and mangrove areas
 - avoid outdoor exposure around dusk and at night near areas of dense vegetation and other areas of high mosquito activity
 - reduce outdoor activity in the evening and at night if mosquitoes are present
 - use mosquito-proof accommodation and camping facilities at night
 - wear light coloured clothing with long sleeves, long trousers and socks between dusk and dawn in areas where mosquito bites are ikely
 - use a protective repellent containing 20 per cent DEET or Picaridin as a supplement to protective clothing when outdoors at night in areas of mosquito activity
 - use mosquito coils, mosquito lanterns, and apply barrier sprays containing bifenthrin or alpha cypermethrin around  patio and outdoor areas near houses
 - ensure children and animals are adequately protected against mosquito bites

Media Contact: Bridget Wild:    89 992 818,  0401 116 203