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Hybrid mosquitoes

Fred Wesley
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

In April 2015, there was great concern that Fiji had recorded its first case of the mosquito-borne virus, Chikungunya.

It was a major shock especially when one considered, at the time, that since 2011, the virus had caused 16 deaths and hospitalised 957 people in the Pacific region.

It actually prompted the Health Ministry to issue an alert calling on people displaying dengue-like symptoms to present themselves to the nearest health centre or hospital in an effort to minimise risks of the virus spreading in the country.

About 93,000 people in the Pacific were suspected of having contracted the virus by that time.

At the time, National Adviser for Communicable Disease Dr Mike Kama said our first case was recorded after a foreigner who had been infected with Chikungunya, prior to entering the country, sought medical treatment.

He said the infected person presented himself at the Nadi Hospital and after primary analysis was transferred to the Lautoka Hospital for treatment.

He was later cleared and returned home.

The reality is that such a virus can easily be transmitted across the Pacific Ocean.

In the face of that sits this latest revelation that we can expect a decline in dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika cases in two to three years' time. It seems it isn't a far-fetched idea at all.

This follows the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and Monash University of Australia yesterday.

It will allow Fiji to export two shipments of aedes aegypti (black and white strip mosquito) eggs to Monash University which will be used for cross-breeding purposes to create the Wolbacia Aedes mosquito species which will act as a barrier to the transmission of mosquito borne diseases.

The project apparently is working well in Vanuatu and Kiribati, and is worth about $7.5 million.

Ministry of Health's chief health inspector and national adviser environmental health Dip Chand expects the program to see a decline in mosquito-borne diseases in the country.

The new mosquito specie, he said, would be released in the Suva-Nausori corridor.

Surely there would be questions raised by this decision to bring in hybrid mosquitoes, if we could call them that.

However, it does not remove the fact that we must be vigilant. We must be proactive and work together to get rid of mosquito breeding spots.

This starts in our own back yards.

It is frightening when one considers the impact mosquito-borne sicknesses can have on our population.

Shouldn't we be reporting inconsiderate neighbours to the authorities, if they aren't keeping their compounds clean for instance? Maybe!

Let us be responsible and considerate.

There needs to be some common sense involved.

Let's beat the mosquitoes and stay safe.

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