Mosquito fight pays off
BARBADOS IS LEADING the Caribbean in the fight against chikungunya and dengue.
It has possibly the lowest infection rates for both diseases in the region with only seven confirmed and 50 suspected cases of chikungunya to date this year. And of those seven cases, six were of Caribbean nationals passing through the island.
As for dengue, for the first seven months of this year the ministry has recorded just over 100 confirmed cases as compared to 1 100 cases for the entire 2013. No deaths have been recorded.
These low figures coincide with a Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) release this week that the total figure for the mosquito-borne chikungunya had reached 513 393 cases regionally.
The figures were revealed yesterday when the Ministry of Health held a news conference at their Frank Walcott Building, Culloden Road, St Michael offices to discuss Barbados’ plans to deal with the growing global Ebola crisis.
What accounts for Barbados’ success in combating these diseases?
Simply put, an aggressive, targeted programme to eradicate the common transmission cause of both diseases, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.
“What we are trying to do is to reduce the number of mosquitoes so that we can reduce the risk of transmission of both chikungunya and dengue,” said chief environmental officer Tyrone Applewhaite.
He added that the prolonged dry season would have contributed as well.
The chief said one of the strategies used was that for every confirmed or suspected chikungunya case reported, within 24 hours they go to the site, do the necessary inspection of premises around that person, then back that up with fogging.
Applewhaite said his unit continued to work very hard in high risk areas where critical levels of mosquito infestation was detected from information deduced from their geographic information system.
He said another aspect of their strategy has seen them going into the areas surrounding Kensington Oval where Crop Over events and the Caribbean Premiere League cricket matches were being held to ensure a minimum of mosquitoes would be around.
They have also been going into all the educational institutions because during the last dengue epidemic in 2013 there were a high percentage of students and teachers infected.
“Only this week we started, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, a comprehensive inspection of all the schools, including the overhead (water) tanks and underground (water) tanks as well.
“We’re also carrying out an extensive inspection of the hotels, we’re doing that right now; it started about two months ago. In addition to that, we are also inspecting all of the medical facilities in Barbados where people may be going to. . . We wanted to make sure that there are no mosquitoes in those areas when patients come they would not be bitten by mosquitoes,” said Applewhaite.
He added that they were also making headway in eradicating mosquitoes from the utilities’ junction boxes in the roads, and said his team went down into the manholes along the Grand Kadooment Day route, did the inspections and necessary treatments to reduce the possible numbers of mosquitoes.
Another successful strategy, said the chief, is their educational programme which the population has responded to and are very sensitive to.
Minister of Health John Boyce said he was heartened with the success being achieved at eradicating the mosquito as evidence by the significant reduction of infection rates.
“Our programmes are working, but very much more important too is that the public is responding to the message that we are sending at the ministry . . . that we are really our best dengue policeman, if you want to use that term,” he said.