Jamaica not yet on board regarding genetically modified mosquitoes

KINGSTON, Jamaica, May 9, CMC – The Jamaica government says it is still to study proposals allowing countries to release genetically modified mosquitoes to help fight the mosquito borne Zika virus.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton speaking on radio here, said he’s in the dark over plans announced by his Ministry to release the genetically modified mosquitoes.

Countries across the region will be meeting in Mexico in July to discuss the implementation of a pilot to release sterile mosquitoes as a biological control method for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

But, Tufton told radio listeners that he is not clear on the programme and has asked for a report on the details of the proposal.

“I don’t know that it exists and if it exists it would be news to me, so I have requested a brief on the matter and if in fact it exist, it would have existed before my time as minister,” Tufton told radio listeners.

He said he would want to review any such proposal “to determine…that the science of it, this particular pursuit is no way endangering our natural environment. So I have asked the permanent secretary to give me a report on it and in the week to come I will get that report”.

Jamaica has resorted mainly to fogging and reducing mosquito breeding sites as a method of vector control and Tufton said that a survey of 600,000 sites across the island found 75 per cent had breeding sites for the aedes aegypti mosquito.

Tufton said the number of confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Jamaica has increased.

“The results suggest that we have about 10 cases, we have picked up another one or two cases. There is still reason for concern as Zika could expand based on the prevalence of the adedes egypti mosquito and that the virus is in our environment.

Over the weekend, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said the Zika epidemic a year later has taken the Americas, including the Caribbean, by surprise, saying that it has become “notorious.”

“It has made headlines in newspapers and television news programs around the world,” said PAHO on the epidemic’s first anniversary on Saturday.

“Researchers on various continents are scrambling to discover more about it. And health authorities in the Americas are struggling to raise awareness of the potentially devastating impact of this new virus – without causing undue alarm.”

PAHO said Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are transmitting Zika virus in 57 countries and territories, 38 of them in the Americas.

Sexual transmission of the virus has been confirmed in nine countries, and almost 1,300 cases of microcephaly or birth defects have been reported, the vast majority in Brazil.