Wanted: Volunteer Zika mozzie catchers
IT SOUNDS like a joke, but it's not.
The State Government has put a call out for people living in Brisbane's southside to set up mozzie traps in their backyard in search of Aedes aegypti - the mosquito species known to spread Zika, dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses.
The 'Zika Mozzie Seekers' will become part of a pilot research project that will "help confirm that such mosquitoes are not present in South East Queensland".
You read that correctly. The State Government wants people to set traps for the *hopefully non-existent* disease-riddled insect.
"This is an exciting opportunity for residents to join with researchers and be part of the bigger effort to prevent the spread of Zika, dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases," Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said.
"Participants will be asked to set up DIY mozzie traps in their backyards and send any collected eggs for testing using a world-first method of DNA testing, developed in collaboration between Metro South Public Health Unit, Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services and Brisbane City Council.
"The testing will identify whether any of the species of mosquitoes found in participants' backyards are Aedes aegypti and plot egg them on an interactive map, enabling us to quickly identify whether such mozzies have made their way to Brisbane suburbs."
In June this year, a Mackay man contracted Zika virus after a trip to Mexico.
An area in South Mackay was assessed by the Mackay Public Health Unit, with a mosquito control team travelling from Townsville to help with the inspection. Inspectors visited 100 homes in South Mackay for mosquito checks and spraying.
A Rockhampton man was also found with the Zika virus after having visited South America where there was an outbreak of the virus.
"While the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have not been detected in South East Queensland since the 1950s, we need to find new ways to increase public confidence that they are not present and detect any incursion as early as possible," Mr Dick said.
"This type of mozzie does not fly far from breeding sites, so finding them early in large cities can be extremely difficult.
"For more effective monitoring in urban areas, we need to place mozzie egg traps across many more locations, and backyards are ideal. The new DNA testing method makes monitoring in more locations possible by enabling our scientists to rapidly screen up to 5000 freshly hatched larvae from mosquito eggs at a time.
"The help of the community is crucial because we need traps in as many backyards as possible. If you live in the Metro South Health region of Brisbane, please register your interest in becoming a 'Zika Mozzie Seeker'."
Project manager and entomologist Brian Montgomery from Metro South Public Health Unit said the 'Zika Mozzie Seeker' pilot could set a benchmark for mosquito monitoring.
"An egg trap is fun and easy to set up - it's a small container partially filled with water, which is the sort of environment the mozzies breed in. If your location is suitable you'll be sent a free mosquito egg collection kit. All you need to supply is a spare plastic container," Mr Montgomery said.
"You will need to have the trap in your backyard for around two weeks in 2017 and send the supplied egg strip back to our lab for testing. You will receive results about the eggs and level of mozzie activity in your local area.
"The project is currently a pilot for residents of the Metro South Health region of Brisbane but it has potential to be expanded and used to monitor other areas of South East Queensland.
"The project will help identity Aedes aegypti mosquitoes much faster, which will mean we have a better chance of controlling such mozzies and stopping the spread of Zika and dengue viruses."
You can register your interest in becoming a Zika Mozzie Seeker by visiting https://metrosouth.health.qld.gov.au/zika-mozzie-seeker