Editorial

Let's keep pushing the anti-mosquito message

Monday, May 08, 2017

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We note plans by the Ministry of Health in response to heavy rainfall to step up its anti-mosquito drive. It says there will be an “increase in vector control activities to reduce mosquito-breeding sites and decrease mosquito infestation in communities”. Special emphasis will be placed on Clarendon, St Thomas and St Catherine — the three parishes most affected by recent rainfall.

The fact, though, is that while those three parishes suffered considerably more flooding than elsewhere, there has been increased rainfall right across the country. In fact, for many if not most Jamaicans, last month has been the wettest April in years.

In such circumstances, this newspaper expects that the health ministry will find it possible to expand its “special emphasis” through the length and breadth of the country.

Intriguingly, the health ministry tells us that reports of increased infestation involving “large, black, strange-looking” mosquitoes is similar to what was observed in 2014 when heavy rains fell after a prolonged drought.

Apparently, if we are to interpret the ministry correctly, the mosquito being complained about now is the Aedes Taeniorhynchus, “a fairly large, black, salt marsh mosquito”.

The health ministry tells us that the Aedes Taeniorhynchus mosquito “is not known to transmit any vector-borne diseases like dengue or Zika virus, but is a major nuisance as it aggressively seeks a blood meal from humans and animals”.

In other words, while this mosquito 'bite hot', it is not as dangerous as the Aedes aegypti, which Jamaicans have learnt at great cost, spreads illnesses such as dengue, chikiungunya and Zika.

Of course, most Jamaicans don't care two hoots about the differences between mosquito breeds.

Perhaps the best thing the Ministry of Health can do, given all the circumstances, is to keep the message simple.

The ministry and related agencies should keep hammering home the point all year round — even in periods of drought — on the street corners, in schools, churches, dances, community meetings … everywhere, that mosquitoes are dangerous and people must take responsibility for preventing and destroying their breeding sites.

People should keep their environs clean — remove garbage, plastics, Styrofoam, and all other material with the potential to hold water, for that's where mosquitoes breed. Further, people should be told in the strongest terms to stop discarding garbage of every description in the wrong places such as gullies, drains, road sides and open lots. For not only does such behaviour lead to the blocking of watercourses — triggering flooding episodes — not only does it degrade the natural environment, but such antisocial and downright nasty conduct encourages the breeding of dangerous mosquitoes.

In its latest release, the ministry makes the point that, “Everyone is being urged to search for and destroy any potential mosquito-breeding site in and around their homes.”

The ministry needs to keep delivering such simple, basic advice and more, at every opportunity. No let up. Eventually, with the help of unremitting persistence the message will get through.

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