Cayman’s government is searching for a new solution to its mosquito problem.
The Mosquito Research and Control Unit has developed an advisory board that will provide guidance on a new eradication plan for the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The board met for the first time Wednesday, and Minister of Health Dwayne Seymour and Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn attended.
Jim McNelly, the director of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, is a member of the board but was not available for comment on Thursday. Mr. McNelly did release an official statement about the specific insect that has been difficult for the MRCU to control over the last few years.
“The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not endemic to the Cayman Islands. However, it is widespread and has the potential to transmit a range of diseases,” Dr. McNelly said. “Unlike other mosquitoes, Ae. aegypti breeds only in standing water held in containers. We believe by integrating our surveillance and control technologies, we will be able to eradicate this dangerous insect.”
The Aedes aegypti mosquito can carry zika, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya viruses.
The new board will meet for the next few months and unveil its plan for activation in 2019.
The advisory board’s members include Kate Aultman, director of research for the School of Health Professions at The University of Texas Health, San Antonio; Roberto Barrera, the lead of the Entomology and Ecology Team at the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; J. Lyell Clarke III, president of Clarke, a global environmental products and services company; Ary Faraji, executive director of the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District in Utah; Dr. Valeska Stempliuk, an adviser in health surveillance prevention and control for the Pan American Health Organisation; Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, chief medical officer for the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority; Wil Pineau, chief executive officer of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce; and Joel Victorine from the Department of Environmental Health in Cayman.
MRCU also plans on enlisting the support of the community to remove sources of standing water in residential areas and around other buildings islandwide.
The government has allocated $800,000 to develop its new eradication plan, but Mr. Seymour and Ms. Ahearn did not immediately return a request for comment about how the money will be spent.
The government announced a project to test the effectiveness of genetically modified mosquitoes in combination with traditional control methods in May. That project, which cost $588,000, is still ongoing, and it exists independently of the new advisory board created by the MRCU.
Dr. Renaud Lacroix, a Cayman representative for Oxitec, said Thursday that the May project is slated to last 10 months. Oxitec, Dr. Lacroix said, is not involved in the new advisory board.
“We’ll be involved at the right stage,” said Dr. Lacroix of the company that produces the genetically modified mosquitoes. “Right now, it’s more of a think tank. The MRCU is weighing its options.”