Barbados is on the verge of a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly Aedes Aegypti mosquito, in an effort to neutralize the Zika virus.
It comes in the form of a donation compliments USAID’s Zika AIRS (ZAP) program of an insectary where insects will be kept and studied as part of efforts to neutralize the disease.
Although it’s been over a year since the last case was recorded locally in March 2017, Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George has cautioned Barbadians that the threat is still very much alive. It comes despite the World Health Organization (WTO)’s decision last month to remove the island from a list of active Zika-affected countries. At the launch of the ZAP project, Dr George stressed that Barbadians should not become complacent.
“The public must recognize and be reminded that Barbados, and the region are still populated by the deadly Aedes Aegypti mosquito and therefore it will always be a risk.
“The US Centers for Disease Control is still registering cases of Zika infection among American tourists returning from the Caribbean and maintains its warning that pregnant women should not travel to areas with risk of Zika. The Caribbean, including Barbados is still on the list,” he said.
Barbados’ worst outbreak of Zika began in 2015 with three confirmed cases and ballooned to 144 and 688 suspected cases in 2016. The virus also took aim at the region’s tourist industry when a number of visitors contracted it.
While the Ministry of Health continues to pursue “a multi-pronged approach” to fighting the disease, Barbadians are being reminded that they also have a major role to play.
“I urge the public to be engaged, as there are several simple steps that everyone can and should use to reduce and eliminate the breeding of mosquitoes across the region,” remarked the Chief Medical Officer.
Dr George also stressed that the work being done by USAID, though focused on Zika, could help control all mosquito borne illnesses.
Stakeholders also identified the lack of regional research in the study of entomology (insects) as a major challenge in the fight against the mosquito-borne disease.
According to ZAP Project Coordinator Paula Wood, regions like Africa are still far more advanced in the research of insects than the Caribbean.
“In Latin America and the Caribbean, it is not as much of an urgent issue and there has been a gap in the focus on education. So that is something we have struggled with. A lack of equipment, supplies and system monitoring is also a problem,” she said. (KS)