People's attitude the biggest problem in anti-mosquito campaign

Monday, October 14, 2019

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There can be no discounting the danger posed by mosquito-borne dengue.

Not only does the disease make people very sick, it kills.

According to the Jamaica Government's information arm, the Jamaica Information Service, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told Parliament last week that for the period January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019 there were 135 suspected and confirmed dengue-related deaths in Jamaica. These included 47 cases in 2018 and 88 in 2019. There were 10 suspected deaths last month, according to Dr Tufton.

Further, we are told that as at September 30, 2019 the number of suspected, probable and confirmed dengue cases had reached 5,909.

The pesky mosquito, and more particularly the deadly Aeges aegypti strain which spreads dengue, chikungunya and Zika has been a scourge on the health sector for way too long.

Many older Jamaicans still speak of the shock when dengue first struck the 'virgin' Jamaican population in the mid-1970s. There have been several outbreaks since with this last seeming to be as serious as any.

Over the last several years Jamaicans have also suffered the effects of the chikungunya and Zika viruses.

Of course, the less-talked-about Anopheles mosquito is also dangerous since it has potential to spread malaria which, thankfully, has not been a major factor in Jamaica for upwards of half-a-century. Readers will probably recall a relatively minor outbreak in 2006.

This newspaper's understanding is that there are 74 species of mosquitoes in Jamaica, of which three are vectors the anopheles, which carries malaria; the Aedes aegypti, the carrier of dengue fever; and the culex species, which we are told has the potential to spread the West Nile virus which is said to be absent from Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

We are told that the great majority of mosquito strains do not spread disease. They are mere nuisances.

But since ordinary people have no way of telling the difference, they have a duty to themselves and the wider community to destroy all mosquitoes at their source in stagnant water in and around the homes and further afield.

There lies the problem. For a great many Jamaicans seem unwilling or unable to grasp the reality of the danger posed by mosquitoes.

How else to explain what appears to be a widespread indifference to appeals from the authorities to rid homes and the wider environs of mosquito breeding sites? And indeed, how else to explain the continued careless disposal of refuse of every description much of which provide ideal opportunities for mosquito breeding?

In that respect, we cannot fault Dr Tufton for suggesting, according to news reports, that inadequate resource is not the biggest hurdle for the current anti-mosquito campaign.

People's attitude is the biggest problem, not a shortage of money, we think.

In the circumstances, the health authorities must double and redouble their efforts to educate people in their communities by word and example on the need to destroy mosquitoes and their breeding sources.

The word must be spread via traditional news media and social media, in schools, churches, farms, factories, shops, playgrounds and on the street corner. There is no other way.


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