Zika and mosquito control in Puerto Rico

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The Zika epidemic comes in the midst of a serious economic crisis as Puerto Ricans are struggling with an impending collapse of the healthcare system.

Its vector, Aedes aegypti, is the same mosquito responsible for Dengue and Chikungunya past outbreaks in the Island. Current strategies for vector control aim to improve education and citizen involvement in the control of potential breeding sites, such as old tires, septic tanks and other standing water areas.  However, according to the CDC, this mosquito species has proven to adapt, transform and resist environmental changes and common insecticides.

In 2007, the Puerto Rican government approved Law # 161 to promote a mosquito control program. Each municipality was given the responsibility to develop and implement their own local policies for mosquito control. As of today, implementation of these policies has not been efficient or sustainable.

The CDC recommended aerial fumigation with Naled, as it was done in 1987, for a major dengue outbreak. The Puerto Rican government and multiple advocacy groups have not endorsed this recommendation as it has the potential to cause harm to honey bees, aquatic invertebrates and indirectly affect other ecosystems and humans. Even though there are over 8,000 infected cases and a steep rise of infected cases, they have not reached a consensus on their strategy for vector control.

Public awareness campaigns are not sufficient to control Zika due to existing “complacency” of the citizens to past mosquito infections.

An integrated mosquito management program is critical for the Island. This program should focus on source reduction, such as larvicides, chemical control and community education. It is time for the PR government and environmental groups to reach a non-adversarial compromise in order to target hot zones with the least hazard to the environment.

photo source:personal file

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3 Responses to “Zika and mosquito control in Puerto Rico”

  1. bansarishah Says:

    Thank you for your post. I agree with your position. Mosquito management is critical and there are multiple avenues that have been successful in other countries. And often these programs are not costly but still effective. It is time to act and I think with the current spread of Zika is should be apparent to the government that the ability to act quickly and judiciously is very important.

  2. omaralmatrafi Says:

    Thank you for your post. Zika is relatively a new epidemic in many countries and gained more attention thanks to the summer Olympics in Rio. However, the situation in Puerto Rico is new to me. As you stated, education is essential but insufficient and therefore, it is imperative to control the vector, but this is easier said than done. Controversies sparked over the means to vector control and I would really be interested to see the CDC official response on the concerns of the Puerto Rican government and advocacy groups. Their concerns are legitimate and should be taken seriously. I expected a follow up on the issue and the most recent recommendations to best practices to control the vector that aligned with the interests of native communities of the island. I also think it would be very helpful to compare the effectiveness of current vector control programs to newer methods such as sterile mosquitos and biological modified methods of control using Wolbachia bacteria to reduce the fertility of female mosquito population and cause them to die off. To avoid inaction, WHO recommends “affected countries and their partners to boost the use of current mosquito control interventions as the most immediate line of defence, and to judiciously test the new approaches that could be applied in future.”1 This might be the best compromise for Puerto Rico to ensure immediate action while the negotiation continues between the PR government and advocacy groups to find best practices to control the mosquito in their island.

    1 http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/articles/mosquito-control/en/

  3. puertoricozika Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am currently following the situation in Florida in which there are talks about using the genetically modified mosquitoes in some areas of the Keys. People are outraged and against their use, many of them because of misinformation. At this point, the CDC has been trying to get the Puerto Rican government to do “something”, even if it just using new pesticides by ground fumigation. I hope that they can reach an agreement soon as Guillain Barre cases are dominating these past weeks statistics.

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