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Dengue fever returns to north Queensland -

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SHANE MCLEOD: North Queensland hasn't had much respite from dengue fever. It's returned fewer than
three months after health officials declared an end to the worst outbreak in half a century.

The early onset of the mosquito borne virus this season has authorities desperate to stop the
insects breeding and spreading the potentially deadly disease.

That's because during the last outbreak more than 1,000 people were infected and re-infection can
have serious health consequences.

In Brisbane, Nicole Butler reports.

NICOLE BUTLER: Queensland Health authorities breathed a sigh of relief in September when an end was
declared to the worst outbreak of dengue fever since the 1950s.

But their reprieve was short-lived. The mosquito borne virus is back.

Queensland Health's medical director Jeffrey Hanna tried but couldn't hide his surprise at its
early return.

REPORTER: Did you expect it to be back so soon?

JEFFREY HANNA: I, we expect dengue to arrive at any time here in North Queensland. We've got
international airports and we're close to Asia and the South Pacific so yes, we expect dengue to
arrive in travellers any time of the year.

The thing, I guess what has come as a bit of a surprise to many of us, is this very early summer
rain. It's dragged on and been very intensive, very good rainfall overnight here in Cairns of
course.

We know that a) this will fill up all the containers that mosquitoes, the dengue mosquitoes breed
in. And we also know that once the rain clears it's going to be hot and steamy until the wet season
well and truly arrives.

And this combination, it's ideal for dengue, the dengue mosquito. It's priming us, if you like, for
dengue outbreaks.

NICOLE BUTLER: Dr Hanna says three Cairns residents have been diagnosed with dengue after
travelling to Malaysia, India and Vietnam. He says the three had contact with other locals before
the fever was diagnosed and there's a chance the virus could spread.

JEFFREY HANNA: And on top of it you've, you're aware that we've now recognised, just recognised
someone in Townsville in the suburb of Garbutt who's got dengue and that person has not travelled.
So that person has picked it up locally which means that there must have been a traveller we didn't
recognise who's infected local mosquitoes.

NICOLE BUTLER: Dr Hanna says GPs in Cairns and Townsville have been alerted to dengue's return but
he says the four infected people won't be quarantined.

JEFFREY HANNA: Certainly when people are sick and convalescing at home we ask them to try and stay
between, behind a screened windows and so on, in a screened house if possible. But there's no
mandatory quarantine. It's something we ask people to do for their own family's sake and for the
broader community's sake.

NICOLE BUTLER: During the last epidemic over 1,000 people in Queensland's north contracted dengue
fever and for the first time all four strains of the virus were present, although strain three was
responsible for 90 per cent of cases.

Brian Montgomery is a senior medical entomologist with Queensland Health. He says there's already
an assortment of strains circulating this season.

BRIAN MONTGOMERY: The imports into Cairns are dengue type two, which is different to what the
epidemic was, dengue three, earlier this year. And the case in Townsville is dengue one.

NICOLE BUTLER: Dr Montgomery is concerned about those people who had dengue last season catching it
again.

BRIAN MONTGOMERY: If you had dengue three earlier this year you definitely do not want to catch
dengue two or one or four this year because that's when we see these more severe complications of
dengue.

But our response is to control mosquitoes irrespective of what type they're carrying. So our
take-home message from this is if you're developing any sort of dengue type symptoms don't waste
any time in getting to a doctor and getting a blood test.

Either that'll assure you that you don't have dengue or b) it would say that you have got dengue
and will determine where Queensland Health and the local councils can respond.

NICOLE BUTLER: So far dengue fever has only struck in Queensland's north but infectious diseases
experts say the virus is likely to be common in all Australian capital cities by 2050.

They say the spread of urban water tanks and increasing warmer weather may see dengue spread south.

SHANE MCLEOD: Nicole Butler reporting.