Dr. Marta Medina, chief of Bay Islands Regional Health Department, has around 30 people conducting fumigation against mosquitoes for dengue and malaria. In early October, six fumigation teams began spraying in and around homes using fume machines. The health workers went home to home, filling the inside of the structures with white smoke until the entire structures would begin to ooze the smoke through rafters, roof and windows. The white smoke coats the walls and other surfaces with mosquito repellant and protects the areas for up to three months.
“Mosquitoes breed in poorly ventilated cisterns, garbage, tires, flower pots,” says Dr. Medina. The Roatan health department hopes to spray around 80% of populated areas of Roatan. “The idea is to eliminate malaria altogether, but it won’t be easy,” says Dr. Medina.
Still, not all Bay Islands have a malaria problem. According to Dr. Medina, not a single case of malaria has ever been reported as originating on Utila.
On Roatan the plan is to attack the mosquito breeding areas before malaria infections get out of hand as they did last year. According to Dr. Medina, so far this year, around 15-20 cases of malaria and one case of dengue are diagnosed on Roatan each week.
There are two types of malaria parasites present on Roatan: vivax, a far more prevalent but easier to treat parasite; and falciparum, which occurs in 3-5% of the cases on the island and can be mortal.
There are three types of mosquitoes on Roatan and two of them are virus carriers. The Anopheles mosquito is a carrier of malaria, breeds in dirty standing water and can travel as far as two kilometers. The Aedes Aeguti mosquito carries dengue virus, breeds in clean standing water, but can only travel 100 meters.
Dr. Medina says that the number of dengue cases has dropped around 79% this year. “That was a particularly difficult year,” she says about 2010, when 7,000 dengue cases were diagnosed in Honduras and 81 people died from the disease. At one point Honduras declared a state of medical emergency, and this year the country’s health service is trying to be proactive in preventive actions before the rain season officially begins.
Roatan municipal has been paying the salaries of five health workers since March. In the month of October paid for 25 workers to conduct spraying all around the island. The one month spraying program is estimated to cost around Lps. 2 million. [/private]