Skip links and keyboard navigation

10 years on from one of FNQ’s worst dengue outbreaks

Wednesday 12 June 2019


Health authorities are celebrating the near elimination of outbreaks of one of the most debilitating tropical diseases in the Cairns region.

A decade ago, Cairns faced one of its worst dengue outbreaks on record, including one death.

The Director of Tropical Public Health Services (Cairns) Dr Richard Gair said more than 900 cases of the mosquito-borne disease were recorded in the 2008/09 wet season.

“Cairns faced a perfect storm a decade ago, with no vaccine or treatment available, premonsoonal rains and an increase in international travel bringing more imported cases into Cairns,” Dr Gair said.

“There was a significant public health response at the time, and this was followed by the World Mosquito Program (WMP), formerly Eliminate Dengue, releasing mosquitoes with bacteria called Wolbachia, in 2011.

“Together with our mosquito monitoring and spraying program, the implementation of the WMP’s Wolbachia approach has proved highly effective in preventing outbreaks recurring in this region.”

Queensland Health surveillance data shows there has been no locally-transmitted dengue where Wolbachia mosquitoes have been released in Cairns over the last five years. Furthermore, there have been no locally-acquired dengue cases in any part of Cairns since February 2017.

WMP Director, Professor Scott O’Neill said it was a terrific outcome. “It’s great to see the program having a real impact on people’s health and lives. Since deploying Wolbachia mosquitoes in historically dengue-prone areas of Cairns, dengue has disappeared as a
public health problem over the past five years,” Professor O’Neill said.

“We are very thankful to the people of Cairns who contributed to this success by accepting the project and engaging in a range of WMP initiatives such as releasing Wolbachia mosquitoes, and hosting mosquito traps.”

Dr Gair said while this is an excellent result, it is important people don’t become complacent about the risk of mosquito-borne diseases.

Last updated: 12 June 2019