Editorial for July 22: Mossies more than a nuisance

Even though the mossie populations
on Grand Cayman are nowhere near as dense as they were before the Mosquito
Research and Control Unit started its war against the insects, there are still
plenty of the little pests around, particularly after all the rain we’ve had
recently.

Although mosquitoes are seen by
many as nothing more than a nuisance, their disease-carrying bites can actually
cause serious illness and even death.

Luckily, malaria has never been an
issue in the Cayman Islands, but another mosquito-borne disease, dengue fever,
is a real concern here. 

Earlier this year, there were three
cases of locally-contracted dengue fever confirmed on Grand Cayman.  How this happened was that a person infected
elsewhere was bitten by an aedes aegypti mosquito – the species of mosquito
that carries the dengue virus – here in the Cayman Islands and then that mosquito
bit someone else, passing the disease on.

All indications are that the
infected mosquitoes died off and that the dengue threat passed. However, that
may not remain the case now. Cases of dengue fever are occurring throughout the
Caribbean region, including many countries that have frequent travellers to the
Cayman Islands. Some of these countries include Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago
and Honduras, the latter of which has more than 17,000 cases of dengue fever
reported this year resulting in 23 deaths so far. Dengue has also spread to the
United States and it has been estimated that 5 per cent of the population of Key
West has been infected.

Residents of the Cayman Islands
need to be vigilant and take steps to avoid the spread of dengue fever. It is
quite likely that someone will come to the Island after being infected
elsewhere – either a returning resident or a visitor – and that person could be
bit by a mosquito here.

Although the MRCU will do its very
best to control mosquito populations, they can’t be eliminated. It’s up to
residents to make sure there is no standing water in their yards where
mosquitoes can breed.  Residents should
wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outside and use an insect
repellent of some sort. As is the case with most diseases, prevention is the
best medicine.

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