CANBERRA, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Uncovered outdoor rainwater tanks could cause dengue fever outbreaks in Australia, the nation's peak scientific body warned on Friday.
A newly released research published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that rainwater tanks could provide year-long protection for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the country's sub-tropical north.
The findings subvert those of previous studies that found that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which infects hundreds of millions of people every year with dengue, zika, chikungunya and yellow fever, cannot survive the Australian winter, even in warmer parts of the country.
The CSIRO study found that 70 percent of mosquito larvae in water tanks and 50 percent in buckets survived to adulthood.
More than 40 percent of households in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, have rainwater tanks. The CSIRO urged them to check their tanks to make sure that they are covered and, if they are not, to check for mosquitoes living in the water.
"The last time Brisbane had significant Aedes aegypti and dengue epidemics they also had a lot of unsealed rainwater tanks, and our research suggests it was the decision to remove these tanks in the 1950s that was one of the keys to driving the disease-carrying mosquito out of the city," CSIRO scientist Brendan Trewin said in a media release.
"We are not suggesting that rainwater tanks should be removed, but we think it is important for people to be aware that if their rainwater tanks are not maintained properly, large areas of Southern Australia may see the return of the Aedes aegypti and other exotic disease vectors, bringing with them potentially serious implications for Australian public health."
Trewin said that people making modifications to their tanks such as removing the sieve that collects leaves from the roof and gutters was a major risk factor.
"Biosecurity is just as important in the backyard, as it is at the border," he said.
"People need to check to make sure their water tanks are compliant, fully sealed and not capable of allowing mosquitoes in or out of their tanks."