Bloodsucking danger

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The Asian Tiger Mosquito Photo source: PestWorld.org

Michael Nattoo/Barrington Flemming – Staff Reporters

  •  Prepare for Asian Tiger Mosquito

Chikungunya, Zika Virus and Dengue Fever are diseases many Jamaicans would rather forget, but with the discovery that a rare and potent breed of vector, known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito, is headed for Western Jamaica, it may not be long before those diseases resurface and wreak havoc once again on the health of Jamaicans not prepared for that imminent danger.

The arrival of the Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) to Western Jamaica, coupled with the ongoing rainy season, make for a dangerous combination. As a result, Medical Officer of Health for St. James, Dr. Marcia Johnson-Campbell, is urging that residents ramp up their efforts to destroy potential breeding sites. Should residents fail to heed these words, these mosquitoes could breed and spread diseases at a rate faster than citizens can reasonably counter against them.

DANGER IMMINENT

With the mosquito already in the island (Clarendon) “It is something that we expect,” Dr. Campbell explains to the Western Mirror, “and as the rainy season continues, we will have an increase in the mosquito population. We, therefore, strongly encourage persons to take greater responsibility in terms of looking out for breeding sites in the home and around the yard, and promptly destroy them.”

Though there have not been any reports of Dengue Fever so far in the parish of St. James, the imminent arrival of this most potent vector, which bears similarities to the Aedes aegypti mosquito, could see a drastic resurgence in these cases, which could range in the hundreds.

If measures are not taken now to eradicate the sites and kill existing adult mosquitoes, the arrival of these mosquitoes being discovered for the first time in Jamaica, could make matters a whole lot worse.

DESTROY BREEDING SITES

“Once per week, search your yard for possible sites for breeding of mosquitoes,” Dr. Campbell urges. “Check the flower pots, gutters, tyres, old equipment or furniture out in the yard, air conditioning tray, the tray from the fridge, the dish drainer – check anywhere that water will collect as those things need to be overturned.”

The doctor continued: “Vases need to be washed properly and water changed. Flower pots need to be checked and drums and tanks need to be covered. Garbage needs to be properly collected, containerized or disposed of, so that we don’t accumulate breeding sites,” she explained.

The Asian Tiger or Aedes albopictus mosquito is similar to the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is endemic to Jamaica and is a vector for several diseases to include Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, Zika and Yellow Fever.

The discovery comes as the Ministry of Health observes Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week (CMAW) from May 14-20, under the theme: ‘Small bite, big threat, fight the bite, destroy mosquito breeding site.’

THE ASIAN TIGER MOSQUITO: HOW DANGEROUS IS IT?

Just last year May, Professor of Entomology at Cornell University and Mosquito Expert, Professor Laura Harrington, explained to the New York Times that the Asian Tiger Mosquito is one of the more aggressive and dangerous species of mosquitoes. “It really is,” Professor Harrington explained, citing that while the mosquito also feeds on animals, it had a particular liking for human blood. She explained that that combined with the mosquito’s unusually painful and persistent bite, makes it a “real nuisance”.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito is an exotic species and is so named and can be identified by its single white stripe down the centre of its head and back.

Residents are reminded to destroy breeding sites by eliminating areas of standing water, such as those mentioned earlier. As best as possible, efforts should be made to screen all windows and doors, and if venturing outside for prolonged periods, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, or use an insect repellent containing 20 percent DEET.

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