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Current as of 24/10/14 07:40PM NZST

Mystery insect causes concern

By Michele McPherson of the Bay of Plenty Times -
A warning had been issued by MAF for the Asian Tiger Mosquito (pictured) but calls to a dedicated hotline didn't impress a Tauranga family. Photo / NZ Herald
A warning had been issued by MAF for the Asian Tiger Mosquito (pictured) but calls to a dedicated hotline didn't impress a Tauranga family. Photo / NZ Herald

A Tauranga family spent two days wondering if they had a deadly mosquito in their home after failing to get a proper response from the mozzie hotline.

Omanu resident Peter Fowler said his wife noticed an unusual striped insect on their kitchen ceiling on Saturday morning.

The unfamiliar bug looked similar to the deadly asian tiger mosquito (aedes albopictus) found on the container ship Southern Reef after it passed through the Port of Tauranga last Monday.

Eggs and larvae of the asian tiger mosquito, which can carry yellow fever and dengue fever, were found by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry staff when the ship docked in Auckland.

Concerned the insect may be an asian tiger mosquito, Mr Fowler reached for the fly swat and killed it.

He kept it and called the 0800 Mozzie hotline between 9am and 10am, reaching a ministry answering service.

"The hotline girl seemed like she was just a receptionist. I don't really know if she knew what she was supposed to be finding out," Mr Fowler said.

The telephone worker attempted to put Mr Fowler through to the on-call "field agent" but selected the wrong number and the call went unanswered. He left a message but received no response over the weekend.

Frustrated, Mr Fowler emailed a photo of the mystery insect to the Bay of Plenty Times, which forwarded it to Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service.

Medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack said he did not believe the insect Mr Fowler had found was an asian tiger mosquito.

"We don't believe it's a mosquito, let along the offending mosquito," he said.

It is not known exactly what the insect is that Mr Fowler found but because it is not believed to be a mosquito, there was no concern about its identity.

He said the telephone worker selected the wrong number to put Mr Fowler through to and the issue had been resolved.

"It shouldn't have gone that way in the weekend. It should have gone more smoothly," he said.

Dr Shoemack said Mr Fowler should have been put through to the on-call health protection officer, carrying a phone that was on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Meanwhile, Dr Shoemack said health protection officers would continue to monitor additional mosquito traps set up at the Port of Tauranga. "We need to make sure that these mosquitoes don't make their way to the local environment," he said.

Anyone living or working within a block of the Port of Tauranga who notices any mosquito activity, such as insect biting or larvae "wrigglers" in pooled water, should report it by calling 0800 669 943.

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