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The Ministry of Health is reporting that there are 25 confirmed breeding sites for the anopheles mosquito in the parishes of Kingston and Andrew, and another 23 confirmed sites in the adjoining parish of St. Catherine.
Locating many of these sites have been a learning experience in more ways than one for the Ministry.
According to Medical Entomologist at the Ministry of Health, Sherine Huntley, many of the breeding sites discovered were not the traditional anopheles breeding sites.
“We have been saying that the anopheles prefer to breed in large bodies of water, margins of streams and ponds, but because of urbanisation and development, we are now seeing that the anopheles mosquito is adapting to different kinds of habitats,” she explained.
“There are now incidental habitats and most of our breeding sites are resulting from depressions made by large equipment, such as tractors or something else that man has done. There are also pools of water caused by broken and leaking pipes, so it is not the traditional breeding sites that we are finding,” Miss Huntley added.
Then there are breeding sites in some areas that, prior to the outbreak, were difficult to access and penetrate for many reasons. The Ministry is currently working with the National Works Agency to go into these areas and create the kind of access, so that the sites can be properly treated.
“Bear in mind that these are depressed communities we are talking about and very difficult to reach and that is why we are going to discover one or two more sites as we go along,” the Medical Entomologist pointed out.
Also of significance since the outbreak, Miss Huntley said, is that the Health Ministry has been able to foster good relations with these communities and their community leaders. “I think the Ministry has now recognised the usefulness in utilizing different mechanisms in getting through to the community. Now I do not foresee a problem from here on in to get into these communities,” she stated.
“I think that persons are now understanding the need for health workers to come in and I think that working with the community leaders will facilitate further and better interaction with these communities,” she continued.
Once the breeding sites are found, Miss Huntley said they are mapped, courtesy of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which captures, stores and manages data and thereafter, become part of the monitoring programme. “The Ministry now has in place an anopheles breeding monitoring system,” she noted.
Giving an update on the vector control programme, she said that it is divided in two parts. There is the entomological survey, where field inspectors look for the breeding sites to destroy them and the second aspect, which involves “knocking down the adult mosquitoes” with intense fogging.
“The search for breeding sites will be on-going and we will back this up with fogging. Even if during the day we have not located a breeding site, we go back to an area and fog it, so that if there are adult mosquitoes present, they will be killed,” Miss Huntley informed.
“I think we have been successful so far in identifying most of the breeding sites within the affected areas,” she added.
Meanwhile, both the Health Ministry and Public Health Department telephone lines have been extremely busy. Miss Huntley disclosed that on one day alone, the Public Health Department received some 20 complaints and this number did not include the malaria hotline at the Ministry.
“We have been addressing them systematically, because persons do know best where water is collecting near their homes or communities and the complaints have been very useful in directing us to where there are breeding sites,” she said.
Miss Huntley is reminding persons to take responsibility for their health. She advised persons to erect mosquito screens on doors and windows, let babies sleep under mosquito nets and use insect repellent, as some areas are naturally prone to a high mosquito population, especially in built up areas.
Currently there are 74 species of mosquitoes in Jamaica, of which three are vectors – the anopheles, which carries malaria, the aedes aegypti, the carrier of dengue fever and the culex species, which are the implicated vectors for West Nile virus. It must be noted that the virus is not present in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.
“All other species are just a nuisance and since you are not able to identify which is which, do not tolerate any at all. Protect yourself,” Miss Huntley insisted.