Locust spray contamination management – information for health professionals – November 2010
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has advised that Eastern Australia is facing the worst locust plague in 75 years. To control this pest in Victoria, the DPI is encouraging farmers to watch for Australian plague locusts on their property and spray with insecticides.
A number of measures are available for use. These include biological insecticides, phenylpyrazole and synthetic pyrethroid insecticides as well as the use of organophosphate and carbamate chemicals.
General Practitioners and health services may potentially need to respond to and manage self presenting patients following contamination with, or ingestion of, these chemicals. While it is important to always identify (where possible) the chemical that may be involved, symptomatic patients should be treated on their clinical merit.
Inadvertent exposure may occur during handling and dilution or because of a road traffic accident involving a vehicle transporting chemicals. In rare occasions it may also occur due to spray drift.
If a number of patients from the same area present with symptoms attributable to chemical exposure, clinicians should report it to regional health services who will notify the Department of Health via the relevant regional office.
Managing individual risk
To assist health providers with their planning, clinicians are reminded of the consensus statement on the Risk of nosocomial organophosphate poisoning in emergency departments (Little, M. and Murray, L. in Emergency Medicine Australia. 2004) and the care and treatment of individuals exposed to organophosphates. It should be noted that the risk of developing secondary organophosphate poisoning is considered to be low under normal circumstances. The use of level C Personal Protective Equipment is therefore not indicated for patients symptomatic from ingestion of this class of chemicals.
Some larger health services were provided with a cache of personal protective equipment (PPE) in 2000, designed to enhance hospital capability in the area of patient decontamination for gross chemical contamination. Health services are responsible for maintenance of this equipment, their staff skill base and replacement of consumables. Training in the use of this equipment is essential prior to use, and recommended for annual refresher.
Examples of the registered insecticide products available for the control of Australian Plague Locusts include:
- Biological insecticides (eg. Metharizium (Green Guard)
- Organophosphate and carbamate insecticides containing fenitrothion, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, maldison (malathion) or carbaryl (eg. Fenitrothion 1000)
- Phenylpyrazole insecticides containing fipronil
- Synthetic pyrethroid insecticides containing cypermethrin, alpha-cypermethrin, beta-cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin and gamma-cyhalothrin (eg. Regent 200SC).
For further information
- Department of Primary Industries website or call 1300 135 559 and ask to speak with a chemical standards officer.
- Health fact sheet
- Health Service Personnel Protective Equipment and Decontamination: Presenters Guide