How the Cayman Islands Defeated the Zika Virus
In 2016, the Grand Cayman faced a Zika outbreak. Curious to find out how the Cayman Islands defeated the Zika virus? Here is some background information that will explain how the Grand Cayman eliminated this threatening outbreak in 2016.

What is the Zika Virus?

The Zika virus a disease that may cause a variety of symptoms. For example, some symptoms include a fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle or joint paint and a headache.

This virus is particularly dangerous during pregnancy. If a pregnant mother becomes infected, it can lead to complications, such as the increased risk for pre-term birth and miscarriage.

Certainly, the Cayman Islands government believes that a plan used by a company called Oxitec and the Mosquito Research and Control Unit was a huge factor in how the Cayman Islands defeated the Zika virus.

The Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands is a territory made up of three different islands. The three islands are:

  1. Grand Cayman
  2. Cayman Brac
  3. Little Cayman

These islands are considered a British Overseas Territory. They are also a part of the overseas territory of the European Union. Grand Cayman is the largest island of the three. The islands are located approximately 150 miles south of Cuba, 460 miles south of Miami, and 167 miles northwest of Jamaica. The capital of these islands is George Town, which is located on the Grand Cayman.

How the Cayman Islands Defeated the Zika Virus

To combat the Zika outbreak, Oxitec deployed Aedes aegypti (male mosquitoes) in an attempt to eradicate the disease. To achieve this, they used genetically-modified males in hope that they would mate with the female disease-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. This tactic was a beneficial step in how the Cayman Islands defeated the Zika virus.

The female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are a species that are non-native to the Cayman Islands. The females are the culprit who spread the Zika virus. The females also spread other diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. Male mosquitoes do not bite. Rather, they eat nectar or honeydew of plants. When the genetically-modified males mate with the females, they produce offspring that will not survive into adulthood. Thus, this reduces the disease-carrying mosquitoes. This strategy helped to reduce the number of females in the region. Furthermore, it was a huge component in how the Cayman Islands defeated the Zika virus.

The project was tested in East End, Grand Cayman in 2009. Furthermore, this technique proved to be very effective. Subsequently, the disease-carrying females were reduced by 90 percent where the genetically modified males were released. In fact, Brazil and Panama employed the same technique, with equal success.

In 2016, Oxitec released hundreds of thousands of genetically-modified males per week on Grand Cayman. This release occurred in June and July and lasted for a total of nine months, according to Glen Glade, Oxitec’s head of business development. Little Cayman and Cayman Brac do not use this technique as they do not have a problem with the female Aedes aegypti.

Zika Virus in Cayman Islands Today

Overall, the Cayman Islands are no longer considered a major risk in regard to contracting the Zika virus, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. On the other hand, some environmentalists may believe that using genetically-modified mosquitoes is controversial. According to the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, the World Health Organization recommends evaluation of this technique.

-Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr

Mosquito Death Ray: Technology That Could Save Millions
Mosquitos transmit various diseases including malaria, dengue, yellow fever and Zika. Although both bed nets and insecticides are helpful in fighting off these mosquitos, a new invention is working to completely eliminate these disease-infested bugs: the Mosquito Death Ray.

Developed by Intellectual Ventures, the Mosquito Death Ray zaps mosquitoes to death before they can make human contact. The photonic fence technology creates a force field that can be set up around the perimeter of different areas. These include villages, schools, buildings and fields.

The new technology is still in its beginning stages and is not available commercially. However, once completed and ready for implementation, the Mosquito Death Ray could potentially save the lives of millions.

The technology looks to detect female mosquitoes as the reproduction of more mosquitoes would be impossible without them. The gender of the mosquito is determined by their wing beat frequency — female mosquitoes have a lower wing beat frequency compared to male mosquitoes.

Eliminating mosquitoes is an important step in saving the lives of millions. Malaria, dengue and yellow fever account for millions of deaths and hundreds of millions of illnesses every year.

Yellow fever affects more than 120 million people in regions including Africa, India and the Americas.

Over 2 billion people worldwide are affected by dengue fever, which affects one’s ability to function in day to day activities.

Malaria is extremely prevalent in 91 countries and impairs the working capacity of millions of people, linking it to poverty and developmental issues. There are over 500 million cases each year with the majority of the cases infecting Africans. Each year, malaria kills 2.7 million people.

Without mosquitos transmitting these diseases from person to person, people and children could focus more on their educations and careers allowing countries to develop at a quicker pace.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr

Dengue Fever Epidemic in BrazilBrazil has a dengue fever epidemic. Compared to 2012, nearly three times as many Brazilians have been infected with dengue fever in 2013’s first seven weeks, according to health officials. The mosquito-borne disease has spread to over 200,000 people, whereas last year, there were roughly 70,000 reported infections. To make matters worse, the heavy levels of rainfall create beneficial conditions for mosquito breeding, leading experts to believe that the climate will add additional challenges for medical professionals.

This particular strain of dengue first appeared in Brazil in 2011, but dengue itself has been around far longer. However, immunity to one strain does not grant immunity to the three variants, so this relatively new form of the virus has the potential to run rampant.

Fortunately, Brazilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilha explains that fewer people have died as a result of this year’s dengue fever epidemic than last year despite the dramatic rise in infections, which demonstrates that “authorities were following the right strategies…extra training…has clearly paid off.”

Dengue fever presents flu-like symptoms; eradication efforts are centered around both the development of a vaccine, as well as containment tactics for mosquitos. An extremely popular and cost-effective measure for keeping mosquitos at bay is the implementation of mosquito nets: cheap, re-usable material to protect living quarters from the buzzing disease-carriers. Mosquito nets are already popular candidates for foreign aid funds, but more is always better when it comes to saving lives.

Jake Simon

Source: BBC
Photo: EMS Solutions