This 2006 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a female Aedes aegypti mosquito. (James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) plans to fog a dozen key areas in New Providence known for the proliferation of mosquitos and mosquito-borne illnesses to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, Director of Environmental Health Melanie McKenzie said yesterday.
Ms McKenzie said those areas - divided into three “localities” - will be the focus for the DEHS throughout the next three months as it seeks to prevent the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the carrier for the virus. She said the DEHS would continue to fog those key areas - and other parts of the country - until such time as World Health Organisation (WHO) and local officials have “said this thing is under control.”
The virus has spread across the Caribbean and Latin America; however there are no reports of the illness in The Bahamas.
The DEHS will concentrate fogging efforts in Coral Harbour Road, JFK Drive, Harrold Road, Blue Hill Road (locality six); Nassau Street, Bay Street, Village Road, Wulff Road (locality nine); Blue Hill Road, Wulff Road, Bernard Road, Fox Hill Road south (locality 10).
On Monday, the WHO declared a global emergency over the explosive spread of the virus, which has been linked to microcephaly, a congenital condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. The condition causes severe developmental issues and sometimes death.
The virus has spread to at least 26 countries in the Americas, according to the Pan American Health Organisation’s (PAHO) website, including Haiti and some US states.
Ms McKenzie said officials are in the process of conducting its intensified fogging programme, telling The Tribune that officials were expected to complete locality six and start fogging a portion of locality nine by last night.
She said localities nine and 10 will be completed by Thursday night, after which the DEHS will turn its attention to the other communities. Once completely finished, she said officials would repeat the process.
“It’s going to be a continuum until the medical and global community has said this thing is under control,” she said. “When we see our numbers falling in terms of the mosquito index, we could probably slow down.”
However, Ms McKenzie said secondary to the fogging programme is the DEHS’ efforts “to get the population, the consumer, the community aware of what they have to do” to assist in preventing the spread of the virus.
“It’s important for every homeowner, everybody to check their own properties, check it to see what’s there,” she said. “And that’s the only way. It has to be done. We’re going to get to you, but by the time we get to you, who knows? So it can’t work that way. Everybody has to do something to protect themselves, and this is really important. People have got to become involved.”
The Zika virus is transmitted when an Aedes aegypti mosquito bites a person with an active infection then spreads the illness by biting others.
According to the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), common symptoms of the virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe symptoms requiring hospitalization is uncommon, the CDC has said.
There is no known vaccine or specific drug for the virus, according to PAHO.
Last week, PAHO/WHO local representative Dr Gerry Eijkemans said the groups are operating with the view that the virus, if it continues to spread, would likely reach all countries and territories of the region where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is found.
WHO scientists estimate that there could be three to four million Zika infections in the Americas over the next year.