A new comprehensive strategy to eradicate Cayman’s Aedes aegypti mosquito population, which transmits dengue and chikungunya, is expected to launch next year, according to the head of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit.
Spearheading the operation is the Aedes Aegypti Mosquito Eradication Advisory Committee, which comprises local and international stakeholders. While addressing the fears of a potential dengue outbreak at a community meeting in East End, MRCU Director James McNelly said the board was still “in its consultation stages”.
“Our hope is to beat back the Aedes aegypti mosquito,” said McNelly. “Prior to Hurricane Ivan, the Aedes aegypti mosquito was in isolated pockets across the islands; now it is everywhere. Once we have cornered the mosquito back into pockets, we will step up our efforts.”
McNelly was one of four people on a panel that addressed concerns about the recently reported cases of dengue fever on Grand Cayman. Health officials have confirmed that six people have contracted the virus, and that three of the cases were locally transmitted.
Timothy McLaughlin-Munroe from the Public Health Department also sat on the panel along with East End MLA and Leader of the Opposition Arden McLean and Department of Environmental Health Director Richard Simms.
McLaughlin-Munroe said at least one of the six cases involved an East End resident. “There are a further two potential cases; however, we are awaiting the results,” he said.
Of the more than 60 residents who attended the two-hour meeting, several expressed worries about the chemicals the MRCU is spraying around homes in the communities.
“What I can tell you is that we are using the chemicals that are approved by the US EPA [Environmental Protection Agency],” McNelly said. “The amount of chemical we use to treat an acre is equal to using half a shot gas of chemical to spray an entire American football field. As long as we continue to use the chemicals as the suggested by the labels, there should not be any long-term side effects.”
He added, “There is a long list of everyday items that we consume that is more dangerous for our health than the chemicals the MRCU uses to spray the homes.”
However, McNelly stressed that if the Aedes aegypti mosquito is to be “beaten back”, spraying and fumigating homes won’t suffice.
“The Aedes aegypti mosquito has adapted to be able to live amongst us,” said McNelly. ‘’So, we need to take responsibility of how we keep our yards.”
Unlike the mosquitoes that breed primarily in swamps, the Aedes aegypti can live its entire life cycle in homes and yards, breeding in standing water in containers, plant pots, old tyres and other receptacles found around residences.
Simms of DEH told attendees that to help discourage mosquitoes from breeding in discarded items, a bulk waste container has been placed near the East End Civic Centre.
“The container is there for East End residents to dump their bulk waste,” said Simms. “We will clean it once a week but if there is a greater need, we will clean it twice per week.”
The news was welcomed by residents, who say the district has long suffered from illegal dumping.