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24th August 2017, 13:45

Aggressive tiger mosquitoes arrive in Gibraltar

The tiger mosquito has arrived in Gibraltar. The finding follows weeks of monitoring by Public Health Gibraltar and the Environmental Agency.

The mosquito is aggressive and bites during the day. It is a potential carrier of various viral diseases but the Government says the finding alone does not materially alter any health risks in Gibraltar and there is no immediate cause for public concern.

Present in Spain & now also in Gibraltar

In January last year, the tiger mosquito was found in Malaga and Algeciras. Since then, public health officials at the Health Authority and the Environmental Agency have worked with international experts. They set traps and monitored multiple locations. As this summer arrived, no tiger mosquitos had been found.

But GBC reporter Christina Cortes, and her family, became concerned after experiencing aggressive day-time biting. When they managed to squash one mosquito, they thought they could see the white stripes characteristic of the tiger variety.

The Cortes family alerted the authorities and, upon returning to the GBC newsroom, Christina submitted questions to the government. Further traps were set earlier this month and the positive identification came back from the lab on Thursday morning: the tiger mosquito is now confirmed to be living on the Rock.

Aggressive day-time biter, but virus it carries not presently here on the Rock

It is not native to Gibraltar and has not been previously found here. It is common in other countries where it transmits viral diseases like Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya. It can become abundant in urban areas, breeding in water containers, blocked drains, and rainwater gulleys.

It’s a day-time mosquito that aggressively bites humans. The bites can be painful too. But the Health Authority says public health risks only arise if the virus causing these diseases is also present, which is not the case in Gibraltar.

The virus can however be imported by travellers returning from an overseas country and if this happens, there is a risk of spread, but only if the mosquito bites within a small window period of about a week after the fever starts.

Public Health Gibraltar has been raising awareness of travel risk amongst travellers through a “Factsheet for Travelers”:

1) Before travelling to affected areas, consult your doctor or seek advice from a travel clinic, especially if you have an immune disorder or severe chronic illness.

2) If you are pregnant or are considering pregnancy, consider postponing non-essential travel.

3) When staying in a mosquito-prone area, wear mosquito repellents and take mosquito bite prevention measures.

4) If you have symptoms within three weeks of return from an affected country, contact your doctor.

5) If you have been diagnosed with any of the diseases Zika, Dengue or Chikungunya, take strict mosquito bite prevention measures for 10 days after the fever starts.