Mosquito control: Upstate scientists learn from success of malaria control effort

 

Controlling mosquitoes is crucial to controlling diseases spread by the insects, such as malaria, or, closer to Central New York, eastern equine encephalitis.

Upstate scientists credit international collaboration with keeping a region along the border of Ecuador and Peru free of malaria since 2012.

The coastal area of El Oro Province in Ecuador and the city of Tumbes, Peru, were once endemic with the mosquito-borne viral infection. From the 1980s into the early 2000s, this region experienced an upsurge of malaria. Climatic fluctuations and livelihoods that involve water contact, such as rice farming, are some of the factors that increase this region’s risk for malaria.

Working together over 20 years, leaders from both nations strengthened surveillance and treatment strategies, Upstate researchers point out in the Nov. 28 issue of the Malaria Journal. A grant from the Department of Defense helped pay for the research, done through Upstate’s Center for Global Health and Translational Science.

The study highlights key principles of a successful malaria elimination program, which can inform the next generation of public health practitioners, says Mark Polhemus, MD, director of the center. He and co-authors Rosemary Rochford, PhD, and Anna Stewart Ibarra, PhD, found these elements important:

* National policies and standards were translated into local realities.

* An active case-finding surveillance system was paired with a strict treatment plan.

* A small team of dedicated public health practitioners were nimble and effective because they were empowered by regional and national networks.

The scientific trio suggest that the systems and technologies that were necessary for a successful malaria elimination program should be maintained, in order to prevent a relapse. They also hope this collaborative approach can be a model to reduce mosquito-borne diseases in other areas of the world.

Closer to home, EEE remains a threat

Denise Broton of Cicero was flown by airplane to Upstate University Hospital from the hospital in Lake Placid three summers ago after she was diagnosed with the eastern equine encephalitis virus. Hospitalized for four weeks, Broton slowly has recovered.

She shared her experience with reporters, hoping her story can convince others to guard against mosquito-borne illnesses. The EEE virus can be deadly; those who survive may be left with disabling and progressive mental and physical difficulties. Broton told reporters she struggles with balance and coordination and light sensitivity.

Mosquito prevention techniques include the use of insect repellent when outdoors; wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts; keeping door and window screens in good repair; and eliminating standing water around your home to reduce mosquito breeding sites. Some county health departments offer aerial spraying to help combat mosquitoes.

This article appears in the spring 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine. Hear an interview with further details about Upstate’s part in international efforts to combat mosquito-borne diseases.

 

 

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