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BAYWEST MEDICAL NEWS, Preventative Health

Insect Screening – Climate Change for us at Home – by Dr Jane Atkinson

Disease-bearing mosquitoes  are coming further south every year. Malaria and Japanese Encephalitis are spreading further south as breeding conditions improve for them. We had 45 cases of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) on the Australian mainland since 2021.  JE is fatal in 25% of cases, so to be avoided where possible.

An effective vaccine is available, albeit expensive and difficult to obtain.

A good way for us to minimise our chances of catching JE is to ensure we don’t get bitten by mosquitoes- any mosquitoes.

Many Queensland houses and flats have good insect screening built in. But if you like us live in an older house, from the days when air-conditioning meant breezeways and moveable casements, then you may be facing a prohibitive expense to have your insect screens professionally fitted.

I (Dr Jane) am sharing some ideas I have put into place which are economical and useful for insect screening in a house with difficult windows.

My solutions were based around tailor-made flexible screens, constructed from fibreglass mesh (available in several widths and good lengths from hardware shops).

Adhesive “velcro”- type tape, hook side, is applied to the window surround, stapled into the corners for extra security.

The mating non-adhesive velcro tape is sewn to the fibreglass mesh, then sandwiched with cotton tape obtained cheaply from the supermarket haberdashery section- one of the few haby items you can still buy at Woollies.

Leaving tags of tape at the lower corners for easy access to the window, you have a washable and functional insect screen.

A variation on the theme was the use of paired adhesive magnetic strips. This is a more expensive option, available from hardware shops. One layer glued to the window surround and the mating layer glued to the mesh gave a stiffer edge to the screen. The corners needed to be reinforced with metal L-brackets in the correct width, applied with short button head screws through the mesh to the plastic magnetic strip.

Careful measurement obviously is important, and for this reason I started with the bigger windows, so that if any errors, at least the components could be cut down to fit another opening.

Some window openings don’t lend themselves to velcro on all sides. In some window openings I wanted the sills easily cleanable, so restricted the velcro pairing to the top and sides of the mesh, and inserted a strip of dowel into a hem on the lower edge of the mesh, reinforced with fabric, tape pull tags at each end. This made for a rigid closure across the sill.

I experimented with weighting the lower hem with a string of beads inserted- also quite effective, but a bit more bulky.

Whitco-hinged windows were the easiest to manage, because the operating mechanism does not protrude into the house.

The older  casement windows  with the pegs in the sill and the hinged pull-bars either have to be fully open, fully closed, or open just to the smallest setting, as otherwise the pull-bars interfere with the mesh.

You do need someone who can use a sewing machine. Hook and Loop fastening in adhesive or sew-on lengths of 25 metres is available from a Gold coast outlet- I ordered online. This is by far the most economical way to purchase the tape.

Dowel rods are also cheap and readily available, as is cotton backing tape ( same width as the velcro)

I do encourage you to give it a go- mistakes are not terribly expensive, and it is satisfying to know you have solved a potentially serious  problem with a little thought and labour.




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