Opinion: Tackling dengue

POSTED: 01/17/14 12:20 PM

We have a darn good team in place in St. Maarten to keep the population posted about the dangers of dengue fever and about the measures citizens are able to take to minimize the risk of catching it. The authorities in Panama are taking the fight against dengue to the next level this week, the Volkskrant reported. St. Maarten will without any doubt follow the country’s experiment with more than average interest.

Panama will release – get this – half a billion genetically manipulated mosquitoes over the western perimeter of the capital Panama-City. These mosquitoes will want to reproduce, but the eggs they deliver are empty cartridges that do not produce posterity. This measure has to bring dengue fever in the region under control. The Aedes Aegypti is the real mosquito that transfers the disease.

A top civil servant at the Panamanian Ministry of Public Health, Felix Bonilla, said yesterday that the trans-genetic mosquitoes are released in an area were dengue occurs frequently and where it also makes a lot of victims. It will however take at least another six months before it becomes clear whether the plan will work. But Bonilla expects that the number of infections will decrease drastically.

The experiment builds on research in Brazil and England. In Panama, a 35-year-old woman already died of dengue during the first couple of weeks of this year. The victim was living at the perimeter of the capital. The Panamanian Minister of Public Health, Javier Diaz, emphasized that eradicating the mosquito species is the only effective solution. The trans-genetic mosquitoes are just one step on the road towards that goal.

Dengue is usually not fatal, but it could become dangerous once someone catches a second infection.

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