Zika virus testing in Nelson Port

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The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board (NMDHB) are keeping a vigilant eye on the Nelson Port in an effort to stop the Zika virus in its tracks.

The Zika virus is the latest health scare and in February, it sparked an international health emergency.

The African virus is transmitted by the foreign Aedes mosquito and has several symptoms including sickness, fever, rashes and conjunctivitis.

But NMDHB Health Protection Officer Ruth Ferrari says native mosquitoes are unable to transfer the virus and the Aedes mosquito does not have much of a presence in New Zealand.

“Because we don’t have those mosquitos that transmit it we’re pretty safe here,” says Ruth. “But that’s why we’re doing all this stuff, we really don’t want any of the mosquitos that could pass on Zika, malaria or other horrible diseases in New Zealand.”

While Zika has only been found in 11 cases within New Zealand, health boards across the country are working hard to identify and eliminate any carrier mosquitoes that might enter the country.

Ruth visits the Port each week, checking and resetting mosquito traps in case a foreign mosquito has travelled to our shores via ship or container.

There are eight larvae and one adult mosquito traps, strategically placed around the Port.

The larvae traps are simply tyres filled with water and a dissolved tablet whilst the adult traps are made of netting and attract the mosquitoes through a light and slow leaking supply of carbon dioxide.

The larvae traps are laid and monitored year round while the adult trap is only active from November to the end of March.

The mosquitoes and larvae are sent up to an entomology laboratory in Wellington for examination.

“Every larvae we send they identify. They work out if it is a native one or an exotic mosquito, and from there they figure out if the mosquito can transmit diseases or if they’re just annoying when they bite,” says Ruth.

“We have found foreign mosquitoes here but we haven’t found any carrier mosquitoes yet which is great. Hopefully, we never do.”