MRCU on full scale Zika attack

| 07/09/2016 | 37 Comments
Cayman News Service

(L-R) Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie and Dr Renaud Lacroix of Oxitec

(CNS): The Mosquito Research and Control Unit is carrying out a full-scale attack on the Aedes aegypti in an effort to keep the numbers of the disease-carrying mosquito down and contain the current Zika threat. Dr Bill Petrie, the unit’s director, said there had been an “unprecedented number of requests” for yard spraying, especially in George Town and from women who are expecting babies. Meanwhile, public health officials remained tight-lipped about the exact areas of local transmission.

Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez said the patients live in different areas of the capital with no obvious clustering, so the virus could be anywhere.

He said it would serve no purpose to identify specific transmission locations as it may give a false feeling of security. He pointed out that in most cases, Zika is virtually asymptomatic and healthy people who are infected may have no idea they have caught it, which means many more people are likely to have already caught the virus but they have not been formally counted.

Over the last week alone 77 requests have been made to the MRCU and 61 of those locations have now been treated, as staff work around the clock to meet requests. The unit is also spraying the specific address where patients who have reported having the virus are staying, as well as community-wide measures, including truck fogging and aerial spraying.

Speaking at a press meeting on Tuesday, Petrie explained that the MRCU had been inundated with questions and concerns from residents about Zika, but it was going after the disease-spreading bug with all of the larvae and insecticides it has at its disposal and deploying a variety of techniques.

As well as regular aerial spraying over inhabited areas of the island in the day, with insecticides that target the adult Aedes aegypti, the unit is using the fogging trucks to spray urban areas. In addition, it is using a barrier treatment, which is a liquid insecticide sprayed at walls that protects sites from more mosquitoes entering a given area and has been used on all of the islands’ pre-schools as a precautionary measure.

Teams from the MRCU on the ground are also using larvaesides to cut the next generation in yards, as well as thermal fogging to kill adult mosquitoes.

Responding to requests from the public, the teams use whatever techniques they feel are appropriate for the given location in an effort to deal with the immediate threat of the Zika virus, despite the increasing resistance of this mosquito to the current generation of larvae and insecticides.

Cayman is experiencing a bad year for all mosquitoes, including the native swamp species, and while these local bugs are certainly a pest, they do not carry disease. Zika is carried by the invasive Aedes aegypti, which only bites in the day and not, as is the case with the native varieties, after sunset and before sunrise.

But with five confirmed cases of locally transmitted Zika and significant concerns that the virus is connected to birth defects, the pressure is on for the MRCU to do whatever it can to exterminate the mosquito.

Just two months into an 18-month budget, Petrie said his unit was well-funded at present but if he felt there was a need to increase the resources he needs to combat Zika, he was prepared to go to government for more cash.

However, the genetically modified mosquito project can offer little hope to residents of George Town, where the local transmissions have occurred, as the project is limited to the district of West Bay as a result of legal and administrative issues.

Petrie also explained that the GM technique is a future, long-term solution and not one that can be used to react to an immediate disease threat as it takes several months for the genetically modified males to make any kind of dent in the adult biting female numbers.

But there is no doubt, he said, that the current insecticides are not good enough to eradicate or even reduce the numbers of Aedes aegypti to completely prevent disease transmission. However, Dr Petrie said that as imperfect as the current insecticides are against the bug, the onslaught from the unit is the best hope in the short-term of reducing the spread of Zika and other diseases related to this particular mosquito.

The Public Health Department has created a fact sheet on Zika for pregnant women, which in light of reports regarding various birth defects is the greatest concern about the virus, which is generally mild in healthy adults. The health services authority has also developed a Zika test for any patient not meeting the WHO guidelines which costs $100.

See the fact sheet on the CNS Public Library

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Comments (37)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you MRCU good job please continue your efforts to rid the island of the Zika mosquitos.

  2. anonymous says:

    I’ve got a great idea, lets just kill all the Mosquitos just like they’ve done in areas of Miami and islands in the BVI. Lets agree an exist plan and pension scheme for MRCU employees and be rid of this useless pest. Easy peasy……..;)

    We all know it can be done….lets just do it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am confused. Which species of mosquito is it OK to have unprotected sex with and how do you tell the difference?

  4. Anonymous says:

    As the article said I could be a healthy person but can have ZIKA without symptoms.

    Can somebody answer this question, if I had it 2 months ago and did the test only today or this month since the cost of the test is reasonable, will it still show in the result that I had ZIKA?

    I forwarded another Zika question to Auntie, so I’ll send her this as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      Possibly not. The blood test only shows if you’re actively infected. There are other tests that can find ‘traces’ of infection for longer but they are more difficult. – Hopefully Auntie will put together a full complete rundown for you.

    • Concerned Pregnant Woman says:

      Yes, since I’m pregnant I have just taken a zika test, and they have advised that it can detect anywhere from 5 days to 12 weeks. If you do a quick google they are now often using the IgM testing which can detect if it has been in your system at all over the last 3 months.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why after the airplane sprays I find many dead bees, and only bees, on my doorstep the next morning? I live in Lower Valley

  6. Anonymous says:

    yard spraying to combat zika?…is this some type of joke?….
    can someone spray the walk from my car to work?????………………zzzzzzzzzzzz

  7. Anonymous says:

    What are the effects of wearing Deet everyday (multiple applications a day to be effective) on pregnant women and their unborn child?

    Signed Concerned Pregnant Woman

    • Anonymous says:

      Read the warning label on the spray, i.e. Don’t use deet if you are or are planning to become pregnant.

    • Anonymous says:

      Only uneducated and ignorant pregnant woman will use DDT. Or will allow to spray around her house with a sticky stuff to combat an imaginary threat. Yes, imaginary. The life time consequences for an unborn child whose mother blindly believes everything she is told are grave.

      • Anonymous says:

        I meant DEET.

      • Anonymous says:

        Apparently pregnant women’s are more important than the rest of us. We got our patio, with personal effects, and slider door wide open sprayed without permission or warning as a part of this extra effort (while they wore gas masks mine you). It’s illogical to avoid mosquitoes yet choose to be engulfed in manufactured chemicals that are known to kill insects and possibly small animals, and are linked to cancer. Multiple attempts to ask MRCU why tenants of shared properties can’t get advanced notice of the fogging as a simple courtesy have gone unanswered thus far. Unprofessional and disrespectful.

      • Anonymous says:

        2:40 — “imaginary threat”? What utter rubbish.

    • Anonymous says:

      The US Center for Disease Control recommend (a) DEET (and some other active ingredient repellents) and (b) “EPA [US Environmental Protection Agency] does not recommend any additional precautions for repellent use by pregnant or nursing women”.

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘don’t trust claims made by anonymous people on message boards’ but some of the other answers to your question I would ask for sources before believing.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Everyone needs to be accountable to help clean up. They need a campaign and MRCU officers probably inspecting yards. This is serious as will be in big trouble if we get an infestation.

  9. MM says:

    MRCU, please have a drive down in to Lookout Gardens in BT and there are pools of stagnant water infested with mosquito larvae; may I suggest pouring some sort of chemical? It has been standing since the flooding some weeks ago and boy are the mozzies loving it!

  10. MM says:

    Smoke pots in the back yard people, smoke pots.

    I am going to hunt for a nice big metal bucket and load that up with old coconut husks and dried leaves and limbs and I am sure my neighbors won’t complain this time.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Keep up the good work.

  12. Anonymous says:

    So they’re spraying the GM mosquitos too? How do they get chance to do their job?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank goodness for MRCU and the expertise built up over the years. I thank them too for the devotion and dedication to the job. I am sure that our Zika problem will be greatly mitigated because of their efforts.

    I appeal to all residents to do their part in keeping their environment clear of mosquito breeding sites. And travelers to countries with known Zika outbreaks, please don’t forget your Deet mosquito repellent .

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you Mother. You forgot to remind me about sunscreen.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, if everyone was acting responsibly, we might not be where we are on — desperately trying to prevent a full scale epidemic — Mother.

    • MM says:

      There is already a Zika outbreak here; but the numbers are not being recorded because the people with it do not have or do not want to spend the $100 (recently reduced from $350 apparently) that is required to get tested. If health officials truly want an accurate idea of who has it and who does not; they will have to do a free testing drive because there are neighborhoods where people admittedly think they have it but cannot afford to go. Heck, we all could have it and not know.

      • Anonymous says:

        What a lot of BS. I am aware of at least 1 person who was sick and tested (negative) at little to no cost.

        • MM says:

          Well then someone on the radio broadcasting the news at 6pm must have gotten the pricing issue wrong; but I am sure we can ask Auntie.


          Can you please confirm what a person with Zika symptoms should do to get tested and what are the costs involved?

          I will pass this onto Auntie.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not true. Testing is free.

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