Chief Environmental Health Officer Lionel Michael has said the ‘Sterile Insect Technique’ to be used on St Croix in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands to control their population of the disease-carrying Aedes Aegypti mosquito will have no effect on the BVI.
Michael gave that indication following concern that the USVI had not consulted with the BVI before deciding to roll out the technique, which involves releasing a breed of non-biting, sterile male mosquitoes carrying the Wolbachia bacterium. This bacterium effectively prevents the Ades Aegypti female mosquitos from successfully hatching eggs.
The concern was raised against the backdrop that the two territory’s ecosystems are interconnected. But Michael made it clear that the initiative would have no impact on the BVI since mosquitoes usually travel within close the proximity of their breeding area.
“Only way how it could have an impact on us is if mosquitoes were to be released and come to the BVI through travel and trade by hitching a ride by aircraft or boat or ferry. But apart from that, I don’t see how it could affect us,” the environmental health boss said.
The technique is safe
Michael further credited the technique, stating that there are several studies proving that the study is safe.
“It seems to have a high degree of safety from all of the reports and risk assessments that have been done on all the discussions … It is a good thing to suppress the disease because you can’t eradicate the mosquitoes, you can only control them through various methods of technology because mosquitoes have been around for centuries,” Michael said.
He further said the BVI will continue to control mosquitoes in the territory through the use of traditional techniques such as source reduction, environmental control, sanitation, physical and mechanical control, biological control (use of fish & biological chemicals), chemical control (spraying, fogging), and culture control whereby residents sensitised about how to limit mosquito breeding.
He, however, said these techniques can only be effective if residents cooperate and are actively involved in the process.
Consultations with BVI
As for consultations with the BVI, Michael told BVI News that the USVI’s proposed technique is not a new subject to officials in the BVI since a number of discussions have been had on the topic throughout the region.
“It’s an on-going discussion in the Caribbean but nobody from the US Virgin Islands have contacted us here. We’ve been discussing new mosquito techniques. The Wolbachia one will use beneficial insects to suppress and control mosquitoes and they have genetically modified mosquitoes that haven’t gotten very far in the Caribbean. But the Wolbachia has been the one which everyone has been discussing in the Caribbean,” Michael stated.
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