No to fogging in ‘mossie’ fight

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MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council ruled out chemical “fogging” to kill mosquitoes in the fight against the Buruli ulcer.

The decision follows community alarm over the uncharted environmental impacts of non-targeted insecticide spraying in mosquito prone areas of the peninsula. (“Be very concerned: mayor cautions about Buruli study” The News 22/7/19).

At that time the mayor Cr David Gill – a bee enthusiast who gives talks on native bees – said he was “devastated by the possibility of widespread spraying.”

“All insects will be affected and, consequently, the rest of the food chain, including birds and fish. The public has the right to be very concerned,” he said.

The council says that as a partner in the Beating Buruli project it is “committed to finding a solution” to the Buruli ulcer “while also heeding community concerns over ways to reduce mosquito numbers”.

It will request expert advice on alternative approaches to reducing mosquito numbers, including “source reduction”, offering an opt-in method for residents wanting spraying on their properties, as well oversight of different levels of mosquito-control activity. It also discussed ways to better consult on any proposed mosquito-control methods after expert advice had been received; not to take a position on proposed mosquito controls until these items were implemented, and to seek the “necessary resources” from Health Minister Greg Hunt’s department to pave the way for other strategies.

Councillors have agreed not to allow the “application of insecticides through fogging” – which comes a little late for properties in Dawn, Goyarra and French Streets, Rye, that have already been sprayed with chemicals to kill mosquitoes (“Ulcer study ‘now a trial’ – mayor” The News 31/7/19).

Referring to sentiments expressed at a well-attended forum at Rye Civic Hall, Saturday 10 August, Cr Gill said, “We have heard community concerns and are undertaking measures to explore alternatives.”

Since 2012, increasing numbers of Buruli ulcer cases have been reported on the Mornington Peninsula. The highest risk areas are Rye, Sorrento, Blairgowrie and Tootgarook.

Since 2015 there have been 391 reported cases: in 2015 there were 45; in 2016 – 64, and in 2017 – 96. Last year on the peninsula 148 cases were reported. Visitors infected numbered 21 in 2015, 74 in 2016, 110 in 2017 and 131 in 2018.

“Balancing the need to control a devastating disease while minimising environmental impacts” is the unenviable task of Beating Buruli in Victoria’s Professor Tim Stinear, from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

He told the council that all the study participants were “very sensitive” to possible environmental impacts. “We will continue to work closely with the council, cognisant of their wishes and advice,” Professor Stinear said.

“When we have a disease outbreak, we have an obligation to the human population to control that disease. What we are trying to do is balance the need to control a devastating disease while minimising environmental impacts.”

Professor Stinear said research partners would continue working to explore alternative options for mosquito control. “This may mean mosquito control activities will not take place this mosquito breeding season,” he said.

Other activities as part of the overall Beating Buruli in Victoria project, including mosquito trapping and surveillance, will continue as planned.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 27 August 2019

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