The Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) in the Cayman Islands has created a board made up largely of international and global technical experts with the ambitious goal of eradicating the Aedes aegypti mosquito from Grand Cayman.
The creation of this specialist advisory board was revealed in a press release from government, which said the board would provide input on an eradication plan. MRCU Director, Jim McNelly, said the unit would use the expertise of the members, many of whom are scientists, in the development and implementation of a viable eradication plan that includes sound scientific metrics and practices.
This is the first time that the MRCU has claimed it can eradicate rather than significantly suppress this prolific species. “The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not endemic to the Cayman Islands, however it is widespread and has the potential to transmit a range of diseases,” McNelly said. “Unlike other mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti breeds only in standing water held in containers. We believe by integrating our surveillance and control technologies, we will be able to eradicate this dangerous insect.”
The government has set aside $800,000 in this budget cycle to help combat this disease-spreading mosquito, according to the release, which said that the community would be enlisted to help in removing sources of standing water around homes and other buildings across the island because this is vital to successful eradication. Over the next several months, the MRCU will develop an eradication plan for roll-out in 2019.
There is no one from the Department of Environment on the board and the release also made no mention of the MRCU’s partnership with Oxitec, the firm which, with the blessing of the Cayman Islands government, released genetically modified insects into control areas in the West Bay district of Grand Cayman.
This method of reducing the Aedes aegypti stirred up considerable controversy as well as questions about the efficacy of the technology. No member of Oxitec is on the board and there is no indication as to whether the company will continue to play a part in this eradication plan.
McNelly said that the board’s combined experience, guidance, and passion was vital to the success of what will become the Aedes aegypti eradication strategy.
The ministry’s chief officer, Jennifer Ahearn, said the board should help ensure that the final strategy, and all programs and projects that arise from it, meet the strictest international scientific standards. At the same time it will reflect the input of a cross-section of key local stakeholders.
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