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Public urged to keep up anti-mosquito efforts
     The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) announced today (March 23) that the ovitrap index for Aedes albopictus for February dropped to zero, indicating that the infestation of Aedes albopictus in the areas surveyed stayed at a relatively low level and the infestation of the vector is not extensive. Despite the zero index, members of the public are reminded to carry out effective mosquito control measures as the warm and humid weather of spring is conducive to massive mosquito breeding in a short period of time. 
     "The monthly territory-wide ovitrap index for Aedes albopictus for February dropped to zero, from 0.1 per cent in January. As for the port areas, the monthly ovitrap index for Aedes albopictus for February remained at zero as in January," an FEHD spokesman said. 
     "Aedes albopictus is a kind of mosquito that can transmit dengue fever (DF) and Zika virus. Despite the zero index for Aedes albopictus recorded in February, in view of the fact that four local DF cases and two imported cases of Zika Virus Infection were recorded in Hong Kong last year and similar infection cases were reported in neighbouring areas where DF has also remained highly prevalent, and that Hong Kong's weather has turned warm and humid in spring which is conducive to the hatching of mosquito eggs in a short period of time, resulting in a large amount of adult mosquitoes, the community must remain vigilant and continue to carry out effective mosquito control measures," he said. 
     "The FEHD and relevant government departments will continue to intensify their mosquito prevention and control work covering areas under their purview, and strengthen publicity and education campaigns to remind the public to stay alert against the potential risk of mosquito-borne diseases, including DF and Zika Virus Infection. The FEHD will conduct a three-phase Anti-mosquito Campaign this year. The first phase of the territory-wide campaign, lasting for five weeks, ended on March 17. During the period, mosquito prevention and control work has been enhanced by the FEHD and relevant government departments. The district offices of the FEHD have targeted areas which have drawn particular concern, such as public markets, cooked food centres and hawker bazaars, single-block buildings, streets and back lanes, common parts of buildings, village houses, construction sites, vacant sites and road works sites, and intensified mosquito prevention and control work at those places. The FEHD will, immediately after each phase of the campaign, conduct special territory-wide thematic mosquito prevention and control operations so as to enhance the effectiveness of the campaign," he added.
     As Aedes albopictus breeds in small water bodies, the spokesman reminded members of the public to inspect their homes and surroundings to remove potential breeding grounds, scrub vases and pot plant saucers at least once a week, properly dispose of containers such as soft drink cans and lunch boxes, and drill large holes in unused tyres. He also advised the public and estate management bodies to keep drains free of blockage and fill up all depressions to prevent puddles from forming. They should also scrub all drains and surface sewers with an alkaline detergent compound at least once a week to remove any mosquito eggs.
     In addition, rural areas and the vicinity of shrubby areas are the natural habitats for mosquitoes, other insects and animals. Members of the public living in rural areas may install mosquito screens on windows and doors if necessary. Those staying in the natural environment should take appropriate personal protective measures against mosquitoes, such as avoiding staying in the vicinity of shrubby areas for a long time, wearing light-coloured long-sleeved clothes and trousers and applying DEET-containing insect repellent. Members of the public are reminded to make reports to the government departments via 1823 if mosquito problems are detected.
     The spokesman reiterated that effective mosquito control requires the sustained efforts of all parties concerned. The community must work together with the Government to take effective mosquito control measures.
     The spokesman also reminded travellers to take the following precautionary measures when visiting areas where mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent during the Easter holidays:
* Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved clothes and trousers;
* Use insect repellents over exposed parts of the body when outdoors; and
* Use mosquito screens or nets when a room is not air-conditioned.
     Travellers returning from these places should seek medical advice if they have symptoms such as fever, severe headache or muscle and joint pain. They should also inform their doctor of their travel history.
     The ovitrap index is divided into four levels, reflecting the infestation level of Aedes albopictus. Level 1 (< 5 per cent) indicates that infestation of the mosquito is not extensive in the area surveyed. Level 2 (5 per cent - < 20 per cent) indicates that infestation of the mosquito is slightly more extensive in the area surveyed. Level 3 (20 per cent - < 40 per cent) indicates that infestation of the mosquito exceeds one-fifth of the area surveyed. Level 4 (>/= 40 per cent) indicates that almost half of the surveyed area is infested with the mosquito. The Government will step up the scale of anti-mosquito operations according to the level of infestation as well as reports from front-line staff and the public.
     Oviposition traps are set in 52 areas in Hong Kong for monitoring the breeding of Aedes albopictus, which is only one of the mosquito species commonly found in Hong Kong and is active only in the daytime. The index does not capture the activities of Aedes albopictus outside the 52 areas and it also does not measure the prevalence of other kinds of mosquitoes.
     The ovitrap indices for Aedes albopictus in different areas and information on anti-mosquito measures are available on the department website at www.fehd.gov.hk.   
Ends/Thursday, March 23, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:30
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