St Mary's mosquito menaceTuesday, September 14, 2021
BY HORACE MILLS
PORT MARIA, St Mary — An unusually high number of complaints about mosquitoes in this parish have pushed local health authorities to appeal for additional resources to intensify what is being described as an integrated approach to tackling the problem.
“Of recent times, there have been a number of complaints coming from across the length and breadth of the parish in relation to mosquito nuisance in our various communities — and this is happening, in fact, across the entire island,” said acting chief public health inspector for St Mary Rupert Stephens.
He is hoping that an “emergency meeting” called by the health and wellness ministry to discuss the islandwide mosquito problem will see more resources being made available “so that we can strategise and put those measures quickly in place to address the problem we are having right across the parish at this time”.
Stephens was speaking last Thursday during a public session of the St Mary Municipal Corporation.
He added that, had the vector control unit at the parish's health department not received four vehicles in recent times, the local authorities “would have been in serious problems in trying to address complaints that are coming from across the parish”.
High-risk communities are being prioritised for fogging and other measures, Stephens noted.
“We were able to visit 29 out of 30 [communities] in the month of August. A total of over 8,000 premises were inspected within a premises index of seven per cent. That means that for every 100 premises that we visited, we found seven premises positive for mosquito breeding,” the health official explained.
He also stated that the likelihood of a dengue outbreak in St Mary is moderate, based on the parish's existing Breteau index of 12.
The Breteau index measures the number of containers positive for mosquito larvae per 100 houses inspected. It combines an analysis of dwellings and containers and is more qualitative. The index has been linked with the transmission level of dengue fever and can be used as a warning indicator of the disease .
Stephens reasoned that recent heavy rainfall may have compounded the problem and resulted in an increase in the population of mosquito species such as the Culex and Anopheles which, he said, are “serious biters”.
He stated that, as part of the integrated approach needed to tackle the challenge, residents should help in getting rid of mosquito breeding sites. They can, among other things, get rid of old containers that may store water and also add cooking oil on top of water in which mosquitoes are likely to breed.
“I just want to implore the residents to play their part in assisting the process because it is going to take that approach to tackle the problem successfully...” Stephens said. “Unless there is a united effort between agencies like ourselves and communities, we are not going to be successful.”
The health official also underscored the importance of having drains properly cleaned to prevent them from becoming mosquito breeding sites. Drain cleaning falls within the purview of the St Mary Municipal Corporation.
In light of that, chairman of the corporation Richard Creary requested that the acting health inspector provide him with a list of the drains that may act as mosquito breeding sites.
He also joined in imploring residents to take personal responsibility, especially in getting rid of breeding sites. Fogging alone, he argued, will not solve the problem.
“When you go into the yards and into the communities [there are] old tyres, old pans — old everything. And then people expect that the resources must be found to do fogging,” Creary said. “Fogging is not only expensive... it kills only the adult mosquitoes at that particular time [of fogging]. In order to get rid of the mosquitoes by fogging you would have to fog every single day in every single community — which is not possible. Stopping the breeding sites is how you prevent mosquitoes... I just hope that persons will understand that we are our own enemies in providing areas for the mosquitoes to breed.”