The vast majority of the population living or traveling through in Tropical and sub-Tropical climates and an astonishing number of vector control program managers believe that living with Aedes aegypti and her cousin, Aedes albopictus, -the mosquitoes responsible for the transmission of many viruses like dengue, chikungunya, zika and yellow fever - is an inevitable reality of life in the Tropics and nothing can be done about it. This position ignores the fact that hemispheric eradication of Ae. aegypti was achieved by 1962 as the result of the I Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization meeting held in Buenos Aires in October 1947 that drafted a resolution supporting an eradication proposal that "resolved to entrust PAHO with finding a solution to the hemispheric problem and implementing the program." This resolution called for an eradication strategy that involved "universal coverage of all mosquito-breeding sites in every house in every infested locality in the country for total elimination of the vector, and subsequent ongoing surveillance to prevent reinfestation.“
Ironically, the victory against the mosquito lead to the erroneous perception that mosquito control operations were no longer needed. In the end, many public health workers seemed to subscribe to the notion that “To spend time and money chasing after mosquitoes would be to squander time and money in a most irresponsible fashion,” a comment published by the Isthmian Canal Commission tasked with building the Panama Canal during the early parts of the 1900s. Consequently, mosquito control programs became victims of their own successes, slowly lost their funding and were eventually dissolved. In less time than it took to eliminate mosquito, the absence of mosquito surveillance and control activities permitted its reinvasion and allowed a renewed feeding frenzy. Today, every country in the American Hemisphere is infested, with the exception of Bermuda, Canada, and Chile, the burden of dengue far exceeds that from other viral illnesses and the total economic consequences of dengue is highly underestimated.
Well into the 21st Century, decades after flying under the public health radar screens, the rapid expansion of Zika in the Americas and the Caribbean Basin reminds us that the mosquito is the most dangerous animal on the planet.
Well into the third month after Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma ravaged Puerto Rico and the US and British Virngin Islands, affected communities face a stark reality: no government has the resources to respond to a disaster of this magnitude. This is particularly true when considering vector control operations and became noticeable in many rural communities in Puerto Rico.
In Loíza, Puerto Rico (18°25'N, 65°53'W) it was exceptionally palpable. The unprecedented strength of incessant winds blowing well beyond the 150 MPH mark (241 KPH or 130 knots) that accompanied Hurricane Maria destroyed countless homes and left large portions of the population homeless and at the mercy of the elements. Hurricane Maria also produced well over 30 inches (76 cm) of torrential rains during a handful of days. Combined with an unprecedented storm surge caused significant, Hurricane Maria produced widespread flooding in areas with no prior history of flooding. The record precipitation and ensuing flooding created ideal conditions for the proliferation of several species of mosquito populations that left the affected communities besieged. Moreover, the extensive destruction produced colossal amounts of debris that hampered relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts and became ideal shelter for rodent populations.
It quickly became evident that the widespread devastation resulting from Hurricane Maria overwhelmed the limited capacity of Puerto Rico's Department of Health (DRPH) to respond in a timely manner. At the time of this note, about a dozen cases and a handful of deaths due to leptospirosis have been confirmed and cases of zika, dengue and chikungunya are increasing.
Many residents of rural areas were left with very limited options to address their needs for food and shelter and a myriad of public health issues emerging after the event. Under this scenario, a community-based approach designed to provide residents with the information they needed to help themselves and help public health authorities was developed. Its goal is to assist residents of affected communities and municipal authorities design and implement a community-based, integrated mosquito control program to protect themselves against mosquitoes by deploying as many non-chemical and environmental management methods and procedures as possible, combine them with personal protection devices and merge them into a comprehensive, integrated mosquito population suppression plan with methods and materials provided by experienced mosquito control professionals that can serve as the template for municipal and public health authorities to follow.
We will provide details on the steps taken and their impact as the program progresses and evolve in our website, www.mosquitoden.com. Contact us directly if you'd like to get involved.