The Murraylands are at the highest risk of mosquito-borne disease transmission since 2010 due to the La Nina weather event currently active in the tropical Pacific.
The weather events in La Nina create ideal conditions for mosquito breeding. The 2010-11 La Nina weather event was the largest mosquito-borne disease outbreak ever recorded in South Australia.
Mosquitoes that breed in still waters and river environments provide ideal habitats for mosquito breeding.
Mosquitoes can transmit a number of arboviruses (mosquito-borne viruses) that can cause serious and even fatal diseases in humans.
In South Africa, the most common arboviruses are the Ross River Virus and the Barmah Forest Virus.
While most people make a full recovery from these viruses, they can be debilitating.
Of particular concern to health officials are the rarer but more serious viruses Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus and Kunjin Virus.
The last human cases of MVEV in South Africa were reported in 2011, one of which was fatal.
River Murray councils are working closely with SA Health to ensure that SA has a robust early warning system in place for mosquito-borne diseases.
Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) from local councils monitor local mosquito populations by setting traps in designated locations each month during mosquito season.
Catches are examined to determine mosquito species and abundance in specific areas.
Mosquitoes are also sent to a specialized laboratory for tests to see if they carry viruses that can be transmitted to humans.
When viruses are detected, public warnings are issued and local mosquito monitoring and control activities are increased.
The Murraylands Councils are members of the SA Arbovirus Response Cross Agency Group (ARCAG).
ARCAG, led by SA Health, is a high-level advisory group helping respond to arbovirus risks in the state.
EHOs from the Mid Murray Council, Coorong District Council, and the rural town of Murray Bridge have also partnered locally to develop the Murraylands Mosquito Management Plan (MMMP).
This provides a strong local focus for mosquito monitoring in the region and also supports regional cooperation in related mosquito control and arbovirus prevention activities.
Pictured Mid Murray Council EHO Thomas McKellar said the local councils had proactively created the MMMP to see what will be required of them in the coming months.
“The Murraylands Mosquito Management Plan identifies measures to monitor arbovirus risk during mosquito season and sets out strategies to respond to associated arbovirus risk levels,” he said.
The current level of risk (as indicated by SA Health) has recently been increased from level one to level two, with level three being the highest risk.
If we are to enjoy the warm weather this summer, fighting the bite is important. Cover up, use mosquito repellants, and clear breeding grounds around the home.
The second tier risk means there is a significant risk of mosquito-borne disease transmission this coming summer.
Mr McKellar said it was important that people take steps to reduce the risk of infection.
Despite local mosquito control programs, it is important to understand that mosquitoes cannot be completely eradicated.
The only way to protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid mosquitos from being bitten by personal and household protective measures.
“If we are to enjoy the warm weather this summer, fighting the bite is important,” he said.
“Cover up, use mosquito repellants, and clear breeding grounds around the house.”