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Zika Update for Grand Cayman – 90 Percent Reduction Achieved!

Pupae of genetically modified mosquitoes from the British biotech company Oxitec. AP Photo/Andre Penner

Pupae of genetically modified mosquitoes from the British biotech company Oxitec. AP Photo/Andre Penner

According to an April, 2017  CNN article, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main carrier for Zika and dengue, has had a 90 percent reduction over the last six months in Grand Cayman!

Beginning last June, the British biotech company, Oxitec, began releasing millions of their genetically modified mosquitoes into Grand Cayman’s environment in order to eliminate the Aedes aegypti species.  The mosquitoes were chiefly concentrated in the Cayman’s West Bay area near Seven Mile Beach.  Oxitec’s genetically modified males don’t bite but mate with females that produce offspring that die before reaching adulthood.  The goal for this approach being that the Zika carrying species of mosquito will be die out over time.

Florida is also pursuing a similar strategy to eliminating Zika.  The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, released 20,000 male mosquitoes on Stock Island in April for a field trial that will last 12 weeks. The mosquitoes, which do not bite, have been manually infected with a naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia. Wolbachia is a bacteria found in many insects but not in mosquitoes.  This bacteria is transmitted from the males to the females and ultimately to the pupae and kills them before the mosquitoes can hatch.

Grand Cayman has not had any confirmed cases of Zika since December, 2016, however the doctors and scientists at Cayman’s Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) are not letting down their guard.  Dengue as well as Zika is carried by mosquitoes.  Oxitec and the MRCU are working to eliminate both threats.

Mosquitos seem to be a non-issue for most of our Grand Cayman Villas and Condos guests.  Cayman’s caribbean breezes typically keep mosquitoes at bay near the shore.  That being said, it’s always a good idea to pack or purchase insect repellant if you’re sitting outside in the evening or engaging in activities that take you more inland (like a hike on the Mastic Trail).