Stopping Zika Before It Starts
Mosquito-transmitted viruses – such as the Zika virus – know no borders.
While the majority of confirmed Zika cases have been in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa, the virus also has been detected in south Texas and south Florida.
The Zika AIRS Project (ZAP) – led by Abt Associates and funded by USAID – is working in 10 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to prevent the transmission of Zika and the associated health effects. (Abt also is working on efforts to prevent the spread of Zika in the U.S.)
ZAP, a two-year project that began in September 2016, is an emergency response project focused on reducing the number of mosquitoes that transmit Zika, which has been linked to microcephaly, which harms brain development in babies.
ZAP is working or will work in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Ecuador, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Peru.
“Some of these countries have carried out their own limited Zika prevention activities,” said Brad Lucas, vice president for International Health at Abt. “We’re bringing a new level of consistency and quality to these efforts.”
Hunting Mosquitoes for Years
Abt has a successful track record combating mosquito-transmitted diseases, particularly malaria. Since 2011, Abt Associates has led the PMI AIRS Project, which conducts indoor residual spraying and entomological monitoring in 17 countries in Africa. Since 2011, the project has protected more than 10 million people every year from malaria.
PMI AIRS has created a number of innovations, such as recycling insecticide bottles and creating mobile soak pits to reduce the project’s environmental impact.
Getting Mosquitoes While They’re Young
The Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. ZAP, beginning in Honduras, is conducting robust entomological monitoring to measure this mosquito’s density levels, feeding and resting habits, and longevity.
“Very few countries have very robust entomological data, especially year-over-year comparisons,” said Ashley Thomas, a ZAP monitoring and evaluation specialist. “This hinders their ability to track, for example, how many mosquitoes carry Zika.”
ZAP also will test for insecticide resistance, pilot innovative vector control approaches tailored to Aedes mosquitoes, and monitor the impact of those activities. Larviciding, or targeting mosquito larvae in breeding sites before they mature, is a potentially effective technique against the Zika mosquito.
ZAP also will employ the highest-possible levels of environmental protection – a standard set by the PMI AIRS project.
“At the end of ZAP, our goal is for the countries we’re working with to be capable of keeping Zika at bay on their own,” Lucas said.