Health department to tackle increase in mosquitoes, rats in St James
Inside The MunicipalitiesThursday, October 21, 2021
BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON
MONTEGO BAY, St James — With tests showing a worrying mosquito nuisance and indications there is a massive infestation of rodents, the St James Health Department will be undertaking two major programmes to rid the parish of these disease-causing pests, says acting Chief Public Health Inspector Sherika Lewis.
“We have seen an increase in the Aedes index of the parish, an increase from 18 per cent to 20 per cent. We have seen this increase as being a trend over the past three months,” Lewis told the St James Municipal Corporation's regular monthly meeting last Thursday.
The Aedes index refers to the percentage of premises or homes in a limited, well-defined space where breeding of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread dengue fever and other disease agents, is found.
According to Lewis, her team has identified some communities across the four health districts in the parish that are high risk for mosquito breeding sites. They are Vaughansfield Housing Scheme and Arcadia in the Maroon Town health district, Bogue Hill in the Catherine Hall health district, Richmond Hill in the Cambridge health district, along with Mount Zion and Spot Valley in the Montego Bay health district.
“They are [regarded as] high-risk due to various factors — infrequent water supply, topography and natural habitat for mosquitoes,” the acting chief public health inspector explained.
She said her team will be ramping up its search and destroy operations “with an all hands on deck approach”.
Lewis pointed out that this proposed, enhanced vector control programme will have additional public health officers visiting these communities to educate residents on the different mosquito breeding sites around their homes.
“We want to ensure that we saturate each community. So whilst previously we would have about 10 workers going into the communities and not being able to have an effective reach, we want to have about 40 [to] 50 public health officers going into each community,” added Lewis.
She told the meeting that this additional manpower will be used in an effort to move the public health department closer to its goal of a gross reduction in the Aedes index, to less than 10 per cent.
Lewis added that educational sessions across the four health districts will also be increased to ensure that the Aedes index declines even further.
“We want to leave no stone unturned because what we want to achieve are two things mainly. We want to be able to help members of the community identify what are their breeding sites because many times [residents] think that it is only water drums, but there are several other containers that can be breeding sites; it could be a cork… toys… farming supplies like a wheelbarrow. We want to be able to assist the residents to identify these different breeding sites and eliminate them,” the acting chief public health inspector explained.
“And we are also hoping for behavioural changes through encouragement, empowerment, education and, as a last resort, we would want to do some enforcement through prosecution. And this is dependent on the severity of our findings in these communities,” said Lewis before she moved to the increase in the reports of rodents in the parish.
“[Residents] are reporting sighting of rodents and, from a public health standpoint, once you see rodents in the daytime that means that there is a massive infestation of the rodents,” said Lewis.
She pointed out that fixing this problem will require a collective effort by public health workers and the residents of St James.
“Rodents are being sighted in various areas so we are actually in the process of preparing a work plan, and we want to be able to have a comprehensive programme that will not only deal with baiting but we want to have health education as we want to ensure that [residents] understand how their practices contribute to rodent infestation,” Lewis said.