The threat to Tasmania of the Asian tiger mosquito
journal contributionposted on 09.03.2018, 00:00 by Andrew Taylor-RobinsonAndrew Taylor-Robinson
The Asian tiger mosquito carries the major human pathogens dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya and Zika. An infectious bite can transfer any of these closely related viruses to a person, causing feverish illness, typically characterised by flu-like symptoms, but sometimes more significant manifestations. It lives around homes, feeds during daylight and prefers to bite humans. Currently, it is endemic across the Torres Strait from northern Queensland, a narrow gap of 150 Km. It is a question of not if but when this mosquito lands on our shores. Of real concern, it can tolerate cooler climates than its ‘sister’, the yellow fever mosquito, which transmits sporadic, local outbreaks of dengue in our tropical north. While this species may expand slowly south due to global warming, once the ‘tiger’ arrives it could spread rapidly to more southern states, even bridging the Bass Strait to reach northern Tasmania. Such is its ability to withstand cold its eggs and larvae might also survive the Launceston winter, so enabling year round transmission. While there is no need for immediate alarm, I urge increased awareness among individuals and communities in regions not historically affected by mosquito-transmitted viruses, such as the Meander Valley, and call for state and federal authorities to review public health strategies to provide for such an impending threat.