Chief Health Inspector (CHI), Sharon Martin, wants the public to assist her department in helping to significantly reduce the number of mosquitoes in the country.
Speaking specifically to the situation on Antigua, Martin said the recent rainfall, especially during the month of November, created ideal conditions for mosquitoes and a significant spike in the insect’s numbers.
“We are all responsible for the explosion in the amount of mosquitoes that are a nuisance and a health risk for many households. We are therefore launching a public appeal for people in our various communities to join us in ridding the island of the mosquitoes,” she urged.
Martin wants homeowners to ensure that there are no areas on their property where water can collect and be used by mosquitoes to reproduce.
“If you see the larvae of the mosquitoes – wrigglers as they are commonly called locally – in the water, take decisive action to destroy them thus preventing them from reaching the adult stage.
“It is quite a simple task to pour cooking oil into the water. This provides a film coating on the surface of the water making it impossible for the larvae to breathe and eventually die,” she remarked.
The CHI explained that the adult, female mosquito needs blood to help with the development of its eggs. Therefore, as soon as it matures, the female mosquito’s first task is to seek blood so that it can mate and lay its eggs.
The mosquito is responsible for a number of diseases including yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya.
In Antigua and Barbuda, the most common mosquito borne disease is dengue fever.
While Martin would prefer that the public make conditions hostile for the mosquito to breed, she said destroying the pest in its larvae stage when the insect is most vulnerable is still preferable to more invasive means of controlling the adult insect.
Once mosquitoes mature, health officials must resort to fogging and other methods to destroy the insect.
“Fogging as a mosquito control method is not a very healthy method to use. It often kills non-target insects such as the honeybees, thereby interfering with someone’s sources of income and it is also a source for respiratory issues with some people.
“Those with respiratory illnesses sometimes end up on ventilators or nebulisers after breathing in the chemicals found in the fog created to control the pests,” Martin said.
The CHI is urging the nation to take the matter of mosquito control seriously as it is both a personal and a national concern.