As the authorities struggle to resolve the ongoing sewage overflow crisis on the south coast, health officials are reporting a new public health issue in the same catchment area, partly attributable to the effluent.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George disclosed this afternoon that there was a mosquito control problem on the south coast, which has forced the Ministry of Health to take immediate action to nip it in the bud.
“The mosquitoes are being detected as a Culex mosquito, which is not the Aedes Egypti or the Anopheles mosquito, which particularly carry disease. However, they are a nuisance and mosquitoes are blood sucking insects, so we need to put all our efforts to make sure that that is not brought to a challenge,” Dr George told Barbados TODAY.
The health official said there were several reasons for the mosquito infestation, including heavy rains and the sewage overflows.
“It is due to many reasons: the additional rainfall, the spillage of sewage, the runoff in certain areas. There has been an accumulation of water in that area. In addition, the Graeme Hall swamp has some challenges . . . there is a lot of bush growing around the periphery and the mosquito levels are very, very high,” he said.
Dr George said the Ministry of Health had swung into immediate action and intensified its vector control campaign, particularly in the Worthing and Hastings areas of Christ Church.
“We are doing daily fogging. We started from twice to three times weekly fogging, to daily fogging. Secondly, we are doing our larvicidal distributions, but thirdly we are going to deploy some of the persons from the de-bushing programme to the [Graeme Hall] swamp to try to see if they can reduce some of the brush and undergrowth in the area where we feel mosquitoes have been breeding,” he explained, adding that the ministry was of the view that the insects were breeding on the periphery of the swamp.
The Culex can spread Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis and West Nile fever, according to the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, the Chief Medical Officer said the ministry was eager to test water samples at five properties occupied by staff of the United States embassy following a medical alert issued by the Americans last week, stating that the tap water was unfit for consumption.
In the January 25 alert published on its website, the embassy said the tests had revealed “bacteria at elevated levels in the tap water”.
As a precaution it recommended to its staff to boil their drinking water or use bottled water.
However, Dr George this afternoon restated a position previously expressed last week by the then Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Anton Best, that the tests by the Americans had left much to be desired.
He also told Barbados TODAY the ministry would liaise with the embassy to determine a date and time for a joint test at the same residences.
“We are continuing to work with the US embassy because we would also like to test the same samples. The water they tested and gave results to the public, they did it independently, but they haven’t invited us yet to do our testing. So they did tests, but we haven’t been given the opportunity to test. However, we are working together to make sure we can agree on an acceptable where and when [place and date] to test also. We haven’t tested their site yet,” Dr George said, adding that he expected to hear from the Americans “in a couple days”.
In the meantime, he said, there would be pushbacks by the authorities here against the information put out by Washington, which suggested that this island’s drinking water was not safe for drinking.
“We are going to be pushing back heavily on what was reported which stated basically from the United States declaration that the water in Barbados wasn’t safe. We are going to do major pushback because the evidence is there. The Barbados Water Authority even went further today to say they are 100 per cent sure that the water is safe in all of Barbados,” the senior medical official emphasized.