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Inspector-General of Biosecurity > Review of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ management of the biosecurity risks posed by invasive vector mosquitoes

Review of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ management of the biosecurity risks posed by invasive vector mosquitoes

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​​​​Background

The Inspector-General of Biosecurity is undertaking a review to examine how the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources conducts vector mosquito monitoring and controls at Australia’s first points of entry to help  manage biosecurity risks associated with invasive vector mosquitoes, especially Aedes spp., entering or establishing in Australia.

Mosquitoes are vectors for a range of human diseases including Zika, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. The majority of these diseases are not present in Australia and their introduction could have a significant impact on morbidity and mortality within the community. The primary mosquitoes for transmission of these diseases are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species, both container-breeding mosquitoes which bite during the day. Ae. aegypti feeds predominantly on humans and lives in and around houses while Ae. albopictus may also feed on other animals and will often rest in vegetation near dwellings. Whilst Ae. aegypti populations have periodically established in tropical and sub-tropical parts of Australia, especially far north Queensland, and have sometimes transmitted dengue fever outbreaks, Ae. albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito) is exotic to Australia except for the Torres Strait islands. It has a wider climatic range, with some cold-tolerant strains which could potentially establish further south into more temperate climatic regions of Australia, through importation of exotic mosquitoes.

Recent increases in domestic rainwater tanks, which are attractive Aedes mosquito breeding spots, along with imported cases of Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses among returning and international travellers in Australia, contribute to the risk of outbreaks of these diseases. Stopping populations of vector mosquitoes from entering and establishing in new areas of Australia is a critical preventive measure against such outbreaks.

Arrival mechanism for mosquitoes

Mosquitoes can arrive by air, in passenger cabins or baggage compartments, or by sea, with imported goods and the conveyances carrying them. The pathway of arrival may vary based on the life stage of the mosquito. Live adult mosquitoes would most likely arrive in Australia on vessels or aircraft. Other life stages of mosquitoes may arrive via water imported intentionally or unintentionally into Australia. Examples of this are pooled rainwater on machinery and tyres, other exposed cargo, and unsealed water storage containers. Eggs of Aedes mosquitoes are also able to survive for extended periods until exposed to water, at which stage they hatch and commence their lifecycle.

Regulation and management of vector mosquitoes in Australia

The Commonwealth Department of Health has overall responsibility for the management of mosquitoes as vectors. This includes responsibility for implementing Australia’s obligations under Annex 5 of the World Health Organization International Health Regulations 2005. Annex 5 deals with specific measures for vector-borne diseases and outlines the obligations of signatories to implement vector control measures from identified sources of risk. Vector control obligations under Annex 5 apply to conveyances (aircraft and vessels) and are also required to be applied within 400 metres of points of entry.

The Department of Health leads, through its National Arbovirus and Malaria Advisory Committee, the development of national guidelines for exotic mosquito monitoring and control at Australia’s points of entry. Guidelines in development will cover roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders; inspection, regular and enhanced surveillance, treatment methods and scale back processes; and reporting requirements, communication pathways and legislative foundations. The Department of Health also funds a Queensland Health Department program to manage and prevent the spread of Ae. albopictus to mainland Australia.

Biosecurity controls at Australia’s borders are governed by the Biosecurity Act 2015. These controls aim to minimise the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering Australia and help protect both human health and our agriculture export industries as well as our environment, tourism industries and lifestyle.

Under Section 53 of the Biosecurity Act 2015, the operator of an incoming aircraft must take measures to control or destroy insect vectors of human diseases that have a potential to cause, directly or indirectly, a Listed Human Disease (LHD) and may exist in or on the aircraft or goods in or on the aircraft. These measures must be carried out in a manner and at a time or within a period, approved by the Director of Human Biosecurity. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is responsible for ensuring that these measures are carried out satisfactorily.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources administers human biosecurity functions on behalf of the Department of Health, including the screening of arriving passengers for LHDs, surveillance activities relating to aircraft disinsection and vessel inspections as well as vector monitoring and general surveillance of measures to reduce mosquito receptivity at first ports of entry.

Scope of review

The scope of this review covers operational policy and activities that are the responsibility of the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. This will include how the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources:

  • responds to biosecurity risks/disease threats posed by invasive vector mosquitoes entering into Australia through various pathways especially via aircraft, vessels and imported cargo;
  • coordinates its responses (that is, monitoring, surveillance for early detection and reporting mechanisms, prevention, eradication measures and scale back processes) to identified biosecurity risks  with the Commonwealth Department of Health, state/territory/ local government agencies, and industry stakeholders at:
  • points of entry (airports, seaports) and
  • approved premises;
  • cooperates, communicates and shares information in managing mosquito breeding areas with:-
  • other commonwealth, state agencies and local government, and
  • key industry stakeholders such as, ports of entry operators, vessel and aircraft operators and approved premises operators; and
  • delivers collaborative and/or complementary action for mosquito management services.

Submissions

Interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide comments on this review to the Inspector‑General of Biosecurity. Before providing comments please consider the review scope described above.
When making a submission the inclusion of specific examples or data, where possible, would assist the IGB.
The closing date for submissions is 13 Jan 2017.

There is no limit on the length of submissions. If your submission is more than 3 pages in length, please include a summary of your key comments and suggestions.

A submission made to a review may be published on the IGB’s website at the discretion of the Inspector-General unless you indicate that your submission is confidential, either wholly or in part.

Making your submission

All submissions must be accompanied by a completed submission coversheet ​[Word 72 KB] which identifies the review to which you are providing comment. Should you wish to provide comments to more than one review you will need to complete a separate coversheet for each review.

You may make your submission in one of two ways:

Inspector General of Biosecurity
GPO Box 657
MASCOT  NSW  1460

Contact

If you wish to discuss this review or how to make a submission you can contact the IGB office by emailing to Inspector-General of Biosecurity or calling +61 2 8334 7409.

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