Jamaican health officials are contemplating setting up a unit similar to Cayman’s Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) in the neighbouring country following a visit to Cayman earlier this month. This according to a report published in The Gleaner on Monday 25 July.
A high-level delegation from Jamaica visited MRCU the week of Cayman’s scheduled release of genetically modified mosquitoes to learn more about the facility’s methods to control mosquito-borne diseases.
Although the mosquito release was delayed due to a court appeal, Jamaican Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton and Jamaica’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Winston De La Haye were among the party who met with MRCU Director, Dr Bill Petrie on Wednesday 13 July.
Accompanied by Premier and Minister for Health, Hon Alden McLaughlin, as well as Councillor for Health, Roy McTaggart, and other officials, they discussed the difficulties both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands face in the fight against the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This non-native breed of mosquito transmits Zika, dengue and chikungunya.
In particular, Dr Tufton and his team were keen to learn more about the method using genetically modified, sterile male mosquitoes to control the Aedes aegypti population. This pioneering technique was due to be rolled out the following day in the Cayman Islands as an additional tool to protect the health of residents and visitors.
However, the release did not occur as planned due to an eleventh hour court filing by opponents of the project. Following a court-ordered stay in the release proceedings, Grand Court Justice Ingrid Mangatal ruled on Tuesday 26 July that the request for a judicial review of the project by the group Caymanians United to Suspend GM Mosquito Project Caymanians was “without grounds” and lifted the stay. It is expected that MRCU will soon announce new release dates for the project.
Dr Tufton is quoted in The Gleaner as saying that the Jamaican government is considering the establishment of a mosquito control unit due to the country being affected by mosquito-borne diseases including the Zika virus.
The Jamaican health minister was speaking at a town hall meeting in St Elizabeth on Thursday 21 July.
“In some countries like in Cayman, they have a department they call the Mosquito Control Unit, and I want to get your views on it. Should we actually establish such a unit where we develop a full-fledged focused attention to deal with mosquitos because it is sufficiently important and a huge carrier of diseases like ZIKV and chik-V and others?” Dr Tufton said.
“As Government, we may need to do that,” he said. “In fact, I have asked the technocrats to develop a terms of reference to examine the requirements and to let us look in the months to come at if we need to create an entire unit just to focus on that entire problem caused by that particular vector, and we will make you more aware of that over time.”
It was on 13 July that Dr Tufton was among a party of local and Jamaican health officials who toured the laboratory facilities at MRCU, where the genetically modified mosquitoes are being reared.
“It was a great pleasure to have such distinguished guests from Jamaica,” said Dr Petrie. “We are very pleased to share our knowledge and demonstrate the techniques we use in the Cayman Islands, as we fight a common cause across the region to combat Aedes aegypti and other species of mosquitoes.”
After leaving MRCU, the delegation visited Health City Cayman Islands in East End for a tour of the medical tourism hospital, before departing for Cuba on Thursday 14 July.