The World Health Organisation has declared the virus ‘a global emergency’ and is warning Australians of its prevalence Down Under.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito - found in parts of far North Queensland – is responsible for the spread of Zika Virus which is causing birth defects in babies.
With a cure for the illness yet to be discovered, the Apunipima Cape York Health Council (ACYHC) is urging locals to take preventative action.
“Unfortunately, when we need to disseminate information into remote areas at risk, it does take a little longer than in a city like Cairns or Townsville,” said ACYHC public health register Dr Alister Keyser.
The ACYHC provides culturally appropriate, community controlled health care to 11 Cape York communities.
In an effort to reduce the virus’ risk on these communities, the Queensland State Government has launched a $1 million dollar awareness campaign, and will spend $400,000 on a new testing centre in Townsville.
Dr Keyser says his main concern is containing a virus that has minimal symptoms.
“Only 1 in 5 people have symptoms so you could be infected with Zika and not even know,” he said.
“Whereas Dengue fever is quit nasty; it makes you feel run-down, your joints ache, and you get a rash, fever and headaches.”
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is also responsible for the spread of dengue fever, which still affects Indigenous communities in far North Queensland.
Dr Keyser says the same prevention methods used for dengue fever are being used for Zika virus.
“The mosquito does most of its biting during the day, so people who are working in swamps and mangroves need to be told to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts,” he said.
Only two known cases of Zika virus have been detected in Queensland over the past year.