Eliminating mosquito breeding sites, avoiding mosquito bites, and protecting pregnant women from Zika virus are the key messages of the inaugural Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week, launched yesterday by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the CARICOM Secretariat.
With the slogan “Fight the bite, destroy mosquito breeding sites”, this first Mosquito Awareness Week, 9-15 May, will focus on Zika and the risks associated with the disease, especially for pregnant women. The annual week was declared at the 17th meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government in November 2014.
This is the first year that Bermuda and Caribbean countries will engage in this campaign, a joint initiative between member states and the three organisations, that aims to raise awareness of the need to eliminate mosquito breeding sites and use personal protection to prevent mosquito borne diseases.
Cases of Zika virus were first seen in the Caribbean in November of 2015. So far Bermuda has no confirmed cases of Zika, however the virus has been identified in 14 CARPHA member states, and eight other Caribbean nations as well as an imported case in one territory. As the rainy season sets in that number is expected to climb.
The most effective way to protect people from Zika is by eliminating places where the mosquitoes can breed in and around homes, workplaces and the local community. This fight will require an intersectoral approach, collaboration between government agencies, organisations and businesses on all levels. Mosquito control and awareness activities need to be intensified as the rainy season approaches.
“Bermuda is participating in Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week and we are using this opportunity to focus on encouraging our community to take steps to reduce mosquito breeding on their property,” Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment, Jeanne Atherden said.
“I am very pleased that Bermuda's Vector Control team has already been doing everything in their power to minimise the health risks from mosquitoes.”
Armell Thomas, the programme manager for Vector Control and Port Health, said: “Locally we will continue our public awareness activities and our Seek and Destroy, door to door initiative which has been in place since February. During this week we will also distribute Handouts at the bus terminal and ferry terminals.”
“We have one of the best mosquito programmes in the world. We will continue to monitor our programmes and surveillance but the public must continue to help us. Mosquitoes can breed in the smallest amount of water, so people should ensure that any object that can collect water is emptied.”