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MRCU Explains Zika Control Methods

Dr William Petrie, Director of the Mosquito Control and Research Unit

The Mosquito and Research Control Unit (MRCU), beginning on Monday 1 February, 2016, commenced its plan of action in destroying the breeding sites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and preventing the potential threat of Zika virus to the Cayman Islands.

The Director of MRCU, Dr. William Petrie said his staff launched the first of two phases in combatting the mosquito population with aerial spraying and a full fleet of vehicle-mounted fogging machines at the ground level.

In explaining the two phases of the MRCU’s contingency plan, Dr. Petrie said that phase one will deal with the situation prior to the virus being introduced while phase two will be enacted only if Zika is detected locally.

“There will be twice-weekly aerial applications, mainly West Bay and George Town targeting South Sound and out to Red Bay because these are areas that we know have the highest concentrations of Aedes aegypti,” he said “We will treat the eastern districts as well but with less frequency.”

Phase two is essentially an intensified version of what is outlined in the first phase with the additional use of new laboratory equipment.

“The lab equipment will allow MRCU to determine in less than an hour whether or not a suspected patient tests positive for the virus. This in turn means we can immediately conduct spraying operations in the vicinity of the patient’s residence, rather than waiting for the return of results from overseas. This timing is critical as we need to disrupt the life cycle of the mosquito, which can be less than a week, in order to break the cycle of transmission. In addition, this equipment will enable us to look for presence of the virus in mosquito populations,” said Dr. Petrie.

Additionally, thermal fogging will be carried out on an individual basis and in more concentrated areas.

At a televised press conference on Tuesday, 2 February, Dr. Petrie acknowledged challenges in dealing with Aedes aegypti as it is a fast developing mosquito, “This is potentially a much more serious public health threat than we have seen previously but we do have the expertise and we have the necessary equipment and trained staff,” he said.

“The good news is that we have experience in dealing with this type of thing from the previous dengue and chikungunya outbreaks in the region.”

Dr. Petrie also thanked government for its pledge to provide additional funding needed to deal with any potential threat on a local level.

“We also have a commitment from government; from the Premier that we will be provided with the resources that we need,” he said.

Premier Alden McLaughlin offered his thanks to MRCU and the Public Health Department for the work that has been done over the course of several months since the virus’s presence was reported to have reached the Caribbean region.

“A tremendous amount of effort goes into getting us into a state of readiness in the event we face a situation like this,” the Hon Premier added.

MRCU and health authorities are urging the public to assist in combatting this disease by deterring any mosquito breeding sites. “Aedes aegypti only breeds around the home; around houses and yards,” said Dr. Petrie. “It does not breed in mangroves, swamps or bush; it likes fresh water. It’s a container breeder, so we are talking about buckets and drums, containers the size of a drinking water glass are favoured by Aedes aegypti. We are encouraging residents to have a look around your home twice a week, it just takes 10 minutes to go around your yard; turn up buckets, cover drums, fix your screens and drain water from plant pots and discarded tyres.”

Dr. Petrie also urged residents to check and clear roof guttering, and offered the help of MRCU staff to anyone who may need assistance in carrying out these relevant checks.

For further information contact: Suzette Ebanks