Gov't to ZAP mosquitoes

Saturday, October 21, 2017

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GOVERNMENT says it is moving to combat the impact and potential loss of earnings due to vector-borne diseases with the Zika AIRS Project (ZAP).

Launched Thursday, ZAP is aimed at helping to build capacity to reduce and control the presence of mosquitoes that transmit deadly diseases.

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, who was speaking at the launch of the project at Jewel Paradise Cove Runaway Bay in St Ann, reiterated that the country lost an estimated $6.6 billion in earnings due to the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, which affected approximately half of the population in 2014.

Tufton said a Labour Force Survey conducted by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica in 2015 revealed that the total number of people affected by chikungunya was 1,339,616, with an incident rate of 49.2 per cent. Approximately 568,415 or 48 per cent of employed individuals were affected. The number of days these affected people were absent from work ranged from one to 30, with a mean of 4.9 days (s.d =3.7), the health minister added. At the same time, 12.7 million man-hours were lost due to the virus.

“Vector-borne disease transmission across the island continues to be a serious public health concern. Not only is Jamaica at risk for the above-mentioned diseases (chikungunya, Zika and dengue), the island is also under threat from the introduction of new viruses transmitted by Aedes aegypti, including Mayaro virus, which was detected in Haiti in 2015,” said Tufton.

He said the mosquitoes were found to be in all 14 parishes and noted that 45 per cent of homes across the country were found to be breeding grounds for these mosquitoes at any point in time.

“The launch of the ZAP project demonstrates another significant step to help advance and sustain Jamaica's commitment to mosquito control and will contribute significantly to the Mosquito Control Research Unit (MRCU).

“More specifically, ZAP Jamaica, which is a one-year project, will be supporting the organisational development of the MCRU, including operational plans and budgets as well as the establishing of an insectary to be housed at The University of the West Indies for key entomological operational research activities, as well as an insectary at the Ministry of Health's National Laboratory,” the minister disclosed.

He said a series of technical and hands-on training will take place as well as insecticide resistance testing in all parishes; an environmental compliance assessment; a series of intensive vector control interventions in selected parishes; and larviciding campaigns in select parishes.

The minister also informed that the project will be exploring the use of new data tools and databases to identify hot spots and potential outbreaks.

ZAP Jamaica is set to start this month and activities will be carried out on a phased basis.




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