Vector borne diseases in Barbados can be controlled, through the continuous collaboration of government, the public and other stakeholders.
This was stressed by Minister of Health, John Boyce, as he addressed the International Association of Lions Clubs??? Small Bites, Big Threats World Health Day zone health fair, held this morning in Heroes Square.
Speaking to the audience which included Chief Medical Officer (Ag) Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand and PAHO Advisor, Sally Edwards, Minister Boyce noted that the theme was quite relevant to Barbados and the region.
He observed that:?????The recent introduction of Chikungunya into the Caribbean region where it was previously unknown, strengthens the call on this World Health Day for us to step up action against vector borne diseases through a renewed focus on vector control.??? He added that each year, more than one billion cases and one million deaths were recorded as a result of vector borne diseases.
In addition to life lost, Minister Boyce said the financial cost, with days lost from work and the cost of care, was significant. It was for this reason, he said, that the work of the Vector Control Unit continued today, to help control outbreaks.?????One aspect of the unit???s work that is vital to our national economy is the inspection of our ports of entry,??? Mr. Boyce noted, as factors such as rapid international travel and trade, population movements, and climate change created opportunities for the global spread of these diseases.
He added: ???Fogging is perhaps the mosquito control strategy that is most visible to the general public. From time to time there are discussions about the effectiveness of this strategy. However, research conducted by CAREC, now CARPHA has shown that Malathion is still an effective control agent against the mosquitoes found here in Barbados. This is a positive outcome for us, given the global concern about vectors developing resistance to highly effective insecticides,??? the Health Minister said, adding that biological controls such as fish and mosquito dunks were also used for treatment of large collections of water.
Monitoring of such areas, Mr. Boyce said, was crucial to controlling vector borne diseases in the country.?????Storage of large quantities of water is presenting particular challenges for the Vector Control Unit. These tanks which may be above or below ground, can store up to 1000 gallons of water. Environmental Health Officers have found instances where householders were unaware of the existence of these tanks and often they are found breeding mosquitoes,??? he noted.
Consequently, the Health minister urged householders and other property owners to check their tanks to ensure that they were properly sealed in order to prevent mosquitoes from entering.
Mr. Boyce added that the Vector Control Unit had trained more than 15 000 people in vector control methods over the past five years, and acknowledged that public attitude was key to controlling these diseases. He chided those Barbadians who dumped garbage and tossed litter out of their vehicles or created environments that led to breeding ground for mosquitos, rats and other vermin.
In response, he announceD that in the next few weeks, the Ministry of Health would be launching a series of community mobilisation activities to conduct a mass inspection of areas that were at high risk for breeding mosquitoes so as to eliminate the potential sources of mosquitoes.
He promised that more information on the programme would be forth-coming. ???Controlling vector borne diseases is not insurmountable, we collectively have the capacity to change the health landscape of this country, ensuring a brighter future for citizens and reducing the burden on the health budget,??? Minister Boyce said.