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12 October 2023

Public health officials from 12 Pacific Island countries are visiting the James Cook University (JCU) Cairns campus this week for training that will help protect their communities from mosquito-borne diseases.

“The five-day workshop is focused on best practices for applying long-lasting insecticides to targeted areas where dangerous mosquitos are likely to land,” Professor Tom Burkot said. “Mosquitos that can transmit dengue and bite indoors are targeted by insecticides applied to walls and under furniture.”

The 18 workshop participants, all managerial or operational staff from their countries’ Ministries of Health, will be sharing their experience in preventing diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, malaria, and Zika virus.

“They are from countries where the risk of mosquito-borne diseases is increasing, but the resources to respond are not,” Professor Burkot said.

“Country participants are learning about evidence-based mosquito control strategies suitable for Pacific settings — and how to pass this knowledge on to their colleagues once they return home.”

The workshop participants represent the first level of a train-the-trainer model which will see them pass on the skills learned in Cairns to their colleagues, to increase the pool of skilled mosquito control specialists in the Pacific.

“We focus on hands-on learning, with participants watching demonstrations before completing practical exercises,” Professor Burkot said. “Their training skills are honed by teaching what they’ve learnt to others in the group.”

Topics covered over the week will include safe use of spray equipment and insecticides, maintaining equipment, spraying techniques, and troubleshooting in challenging situations.

The workshop is run by PacMOSSI, a regional partnership supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and managed by JCU. With 12 international institutions (including the World Health Organisation and The Pacific Community) PacMOSSI works with Pacific Island countries to combat mosquito-borne diseases. Workshop facilitators include experts from Queensland Health and Goizper Group.

Through PacMOSSI, JCU will be equipping the workshop participants to put their training into practice when they return home. Spray machines, spare parts, personal protective equipment and training resources will be shipped to each participating country.

“Mosquito-borne diseases pose a serious health threat and place great strain on communities and health services in Pacific Island countries,” JCU technical advisor Dr Tessa Knox said. “We want to make sure our Pacific neighbours are equipped to reduce and manage those risks, in ways that work for their diverse settings.”

Workshop participants are from American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The workshop is funded by DFAT’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, with support from Queensland Health and Goizper Group.

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