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Bermudians urged to help control Zika

The likelihood of a spread of the Zika disease on the island may be low, but Vector Control is seeking the public's help in making sure it stays low.

Speaking to the Hamilton Rotary Club this week, Armell Thomas, programme manager of Port Health and Vector Control, said that all Bermudians must do their part to combat mosquitoes, the most common cause of the virus's spread.

“I have a very good team but I'd like to think all of Bermuda, from schoolchildren to seniors, is part of the team too,” he said. “If you are being bitten or see a breeding spot, tip any standing water you can see, and call us at 278-5397. Even just a bottle cap full can be a breeding site, and this particular mosquito is pretty smart; it likes to lay a single egg here and a single egg there in multiple locations.”

The Zika virus recently made headlines as it spread across South and Central America, along with the Caribbean. While most people who contract the virus experience no symptoms, some suffer fever, rashes, joint pain and red eyes.

More serious is the impact the virus has on unborn children. If a pregnant woman contracts the virus, she can pass it on to her child, leading to an increased risk of birth defects.

While the Bermuda Government recently reported the first confirmed case of Zika on the island, the patient in that case contracted the virus overseas. There have been no reported cases of anyone catching the virus locally — something Mr Thomas credited to several factors.

“Bermuda does not have the Aedes aegyti mosquito, which is the most common and most capable carrier of the Zika virus,” he explained. “We have a sort of cousin, the Aedes albopictus, which is not as efficient a carrier. This mosquito is small, with striped legs and body, and is mostly a daytime biter. It is not the only species of mosquito in Bermuda and so not every bite will be from a capable carrier . . . or vector as we call them.”

He also cited the continuing vector control effort and increased vigilance by the public and dry weather during much of the summer.

“Unlike most of Bermuda, Vector Control actually likes a good dry spell,” he said. “It dries up breeding grounds. Our team is assigned by district, and is constantly monitoring for breeding sites.

“Bermuda's vector programme is among the best in the world as it relates to mosquito control. Unlike some other jurisdictions, our Vector Control programme has never let up. We have been controlling mosquitoes and other vectors for many years, and there hasn't been a mosquito-borne disease transmission here for years.

“We have 600 ovi traps or egg traps, all around the island, that are monitored very regularly. We have also purchased 100 new traps specifically designed to lure Aedes albopictus with a scent. These traps have a substance in them that is lethal to the female mosquito and her larvae.”

Mr Thomas also echoed warnings to those who may travel to areas with an ongoing Zika outbreak, urging them to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites both while away and after returning to Bermuda.

“Wear repellent, wear light coloured clothing with long sleeves and pants,” he said. “Monitor your health when you return and please wear mosquito repellent for three weeks after you come home, even if you don't feel sick.

“Zika is usually a mild illness, but it is dangerous to an unborn child. It is very important that women who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant take extra precautions, even postponing any unnecessary travel to areas where Zika circulates.

“Lastly, monitor your health after travel. If you feel ill, see a doctor and say where you have been. If you have been to a Zika-affected area and you have symptoms, see a doctor.”

Pest control: Dwaine Swan, the Vector Control inspector for Paget, holds up one of more than 600 ovitraps that are placed around the island and monitored weekly for mosquito eggs (File photograph)

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Published August 25, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 25, 2016 at 5:50 am)

Bermudians urged to help control Zika

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