House-to-house survey begins on mosquito plan

Giselle Johnson works in the laborary at the Mosquito Research and Control Unit where genetically modified mosquitoes are being hatched. The program is on hold pending a judicial review hearing. - PHOTO: MATT LAMERS

Biotechnology company Oxitec, in collaboration with the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, is conducting an island-wide survey on the level of awareness about mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika, chikungunya and dengue.

Oxitec officials said in a press statement that the survey is part of an ongoing community engagement program about their “Friendly Aedes aegypti project” – an operation that would release millions of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in an effort to curb the species responsible for the transmission of diseases.

The planned release of the mosquitoes in West Bay, scheduled to begin July 14, was halted after a judge granted a stay on July 13. The stay issued by Justice Ingrid Mangatal is pending a judicial review hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning.

The survey, which began July 10, is being conducted by staff trained to the standards of the National Statistics Office and adheres to the statistics law, according to the press statement.

On the “Caymums” Facebook group on Friday, commenters who had been approached by survey-takers expressed concerns about some of the questions they said they were asked.

One West Bay resident, who did not wish to be named, said she found it “bizarre” that the survey-taker asked questions about her religion and the number and ages of females residing in the home. The survey-taker also asked what they knew about Zika, dengue and chikungunya. Oxitec project manager Renaud Lacroix said the questions asked are “standard questions” such as those used by Economics and Statistics Office enumerators.

“It just helps to understand the social environment of the person,” Mr. Lacroix said. “It’s just really to know how to reach out to people.”

He said the question about religion, for example, could help Oxitec understand if there are certain groups of people that have not had access to information about the GM mosquitoes or diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.

“It’s useful to know it because we may be able to reach out to them in a different way,” Mr. Lacroix said. “The results will allow Oxitec and MRCU to determine whether more information and education activities are necessary in the community about the ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti Project,’” the press statement said.

Anyone with concerns about the survey should call the MRCU or Oxitec at 949-2557.