Department of Health Modifies St. Croix Mosquito Project in Light of COVID-19

The Aedes aegypti mosquito can carry the Zika or the dengue virus. (Yale University School of Public Health photo)
The Aedes aegypti mosquito can carry the Zika or the dengue virus. (Yale University School of Public Health photo)

As of April 8, the Virgin Islands Department of Health (DOH), due to delays brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, has discontinued the St. Croix Mosquito Project that was originally planned. The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) mosquito release project, which does not involve genetic modification, has been postponed collaboratively by project partners DOH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), Verily and Mosquito Mate because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The St. Croix Mosquito Project aimed to reduce the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can spread dengue, Zika and chikungunya. In the upcoming weeks, the DOH, CDC and NACCHO will work to modify the overall project goals.

“There is, however, a high risk for a dengue outbreak predicted for 2020 as Puerto Rico has reported over 120 cases. The VIDOH will continue to work with our partners on other mitigation options to include vector control training, community engagement and personal responsibility, and spraying high density communities,” said Commissioner Justa Encarnacion.

Dengue can result in severe illness and sometimes death, and outbreaks typically result in a high number of hospitalizations. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone should take steps to protect themselves from both illnesses.

The Department of Health (DOH) thanks the community for the strong support shown to the St. Croix Mosquito Project. In the community engagement conducted to date, almost all feedback has been positive. Support for the project has come from Gov. Bryan, St. Croix Administrator Sammuel Sanes and Chief of Staff Karl Knight.

At the Department of Health’s community engagement kickoff at the Agriculture and Food Fair on St. Croix, it spoke to over 400 people about the project. In addition, DOH held three focus groups where 21 of 23 focus group participants voiced project support. DOH staff conducted interviews with the HealthBuzz and On the FlipSide, and it fielded questions from callers, providing them with up-to-date project information. Additionally, the staff delivered over 280 flyers to homes and businesses throughout the community

The DOH still strongly encourages residents to take personal protective measures to protect themselves from mosquito bites and dengue. Empty standing water from around one’s property, weekly; wear an EPA-registered repellent; make sure all screens on windows, doors and cistern spouts remain in good condition.

Learn more about the St. Croix Mosquito Project at www.doh.vi.gov. Learn more about mosquito control and dengue at www.cdc.gov/dengue