State set to help as Cairns dengue infection rate soars
PEST controllers are set to be flown in to Cairns to help health officials contain the rapidly rising dengue fever toll, which has more than tripled in the past week.
Twenty cases have been confirmed but public doctors say several blood tests being analysed at pathology laboratories are expected to increase that number.
The latest outbreak at Whitfield is of most concern, with cases rising from seven to 13 in a day.
Seven people at Mt Sheridan also have dengue.
"We've had a significant increase, particularly in Whitfield over the last week, and I think it's concerning. It shows we're getting significant transmission," Queensland Health's public health physician Dr Richard Gair said.
"The numbers have been going up rapidly over the last week as we become aware of more confirmed cases.
"We're testing people at the moment and any cases notified to us of suspected dengue from GPs or hospitals are tested as soon as possible."
Vector control staff from other parts of Queensland are on standby to be flown to Cairns to help spray properties and contain the disease.
A media campaign to raise awareness of the outbreaks and ways to prevent dengue will also be launched.
"We're having a series of meetings with officials in Brisbane to discuss the management of the outbreak," Dr Gair said.
"More people on the ground costs more money, so as the number of cases has grown we need more resources to deal with it."
Queensland Health fears the outbreak will reach the same scale as the 2008-09 epidemic, when about 1000 people contracted the virus, unless residents begin taking their own precautions.
Dr Gair said people who were infected for the second or third time were at risk of developing a potentially fatal infection.
"The proportion varies, but we're talking about 1-2 per cent who can get something called dengue hemorrhagic fever, or dengue shock syndrome, which is potentially a very serious disease and can possibly kill," he said.
Several more people are likely to have the disease, he said.
"They're not aware of the fact they've got dengue so they are potentially an infectious source for mosquitoes up to 12 days after they get the disease," Dr Gair said.
Researchers from Monash University's Eliminate Dengue Project yesterday launched their third field trial in Westcourt and Parramatta Park but had to hold off on targeting Whitfield because of the outbreak.
The experiment involves the release of mosquitoes infected with bacteria that make the insects incapable of spreading dengue.
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Danger zone: Whitfield resident Jennifer Gair takes her dog Fred for a walk past vector control officers Karel Van Horck and Rebecca Silcock. Picture: ANNA ROGERS