Government working on mosquito eradication plan

The government’s new focus group for mosquito eradication will debate a variety of approaches, said Jim McNelly, the director of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit.

The group met for the first time last weekend in an effort to compose a new eradication plan for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and Dr. McNelly said it will debate strategies in surveillance and control.

“MRCU currently has a ‘kitchen sink’ of potential tools and tactics that we’ve discussed internally. We have tried to identify anything and everything that has potential to help us meet our objective,” said Mr. McNelly via email on Friday morning. “Eradication is no simple task and it is vital that we engage the community as part of our approach, and maintain communication, education and engagement.

“A ‘Top Down’ approach, meaning MRCU is entirely responsible for eradication, is unlikely to succeed. MRCU will seek to stimulate a ‘Bottom Up’ approach at the same time which is, simply put, getting people to recognize their part in eliminating the containers that produce Ae. aegypti.”

MRCU is currently evaluating its previous method of using genetically modified mosquitoes in partnership with Oxitec, and Mr. McNelly said they have not lost confidence in that approach.

“MRCU’s evaluation of Oxitec’s mosquitoes is ongoing,” he said of a 10-month evaluation program that began in May and will carry into next year. “Integration of their mosquitoes into either our Integrated Mosquito Management program or Eradication plan will be determined by the final results.”

Mr. McNelly reiterated that an engaged public will be crucial in combatting the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and he said the funding for the program will be used to support crucial control methods. That includes door-to-door inspections, turning over containers and treating containers with residual larvicides.

“It will also support barrier treatments – treatments of vegetation that serve as harborage sites for adult Ae. Aegytpi – as we have done and continue to do in response to imported cases of mosquito-borne disease such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses,” said Mr. McNelly. “In addition, the money will support tools and tactics identified by MRCU as part of our eradication plan. Those tools and tactics will be agreed upon for the most part prior to 2019. I can say that we want to maximize every dollar and ensure that sound science supports the expenditure of monies associated with eradication efforts.”

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now