Soper Strategies is a Netherlands-based company that focuses on the elimination of mosquito-borne diseases around theworld. We select specific sites (mostly islands) where we conduct feasibility assessments to gauge if elimination is possible. For Aruba this clearly is the case – after all, the mosquito was already eliminated from the island twice before.
Who are the people behind Soper Strategies?
Soper Strategies was founded by a medical entomologist with more than 20 years experience in disease and mosquito control (Prof. Bart Knols), together with a military logistics expert and former air force pilot (Serge Christiaans). We have a team of experts helping us to develop elimination campaigns. We also have an External Advisory Board consisting of four of the world’s experts on dengue and mosquito control.
Where do I find more information about Soper Strategies?
Surf our website: www.soperstrategies.com, which you're obviously already doing, or follow us on social media. See the links below.
What makes Soper Strategies different from others?
In the past, campaigns against dengue were well organised, by skilled and well-trained people, that executed control or elimination campaigns in a meticulous and almost militaristic style. This approach was hugely successful in many parts of the world. For instance, the dengue mosquito was eliminated from 8.5 million km2 of South and Central America between 1947 and 1962. Aruba is only 190 km2. At Soper Strategies we believe that these old and proven methods deserve renewed attention, with the big difference being that we now have lots of technology at hand to make campaigns even more (cost)effective (like satellite imagery, computers, mobile telephones, etc.).
How will Soper Strategies make Aruba dengue-free?
We will ensure proper training of 145 people that will work in the elimination campaign. 120 of these will become ‘larval control inspectors’: they will visit every house, company, restaurant, hotel, etc. on the island at a 6-8 week interval. During the visit, all potential breeding sites will be removed, and those that cannot be removed will be treated with biological insecticides, harmless to humans and other organisms in the environment. Inspectors will also remove trash, and encourage house owners to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and remove potential breeding sites. This approach has worked before, and can work again.
How long will it take to make Aruba dengue-free?
Based on historical records and a careful analysis of the current situation on the island, we have calculated that the large workforce will be in operation for 14 months. However, the entire operation will take 40 months, 4 months of preparation and training, then 14 months of operational work, and then the remaining period to make sure the island remains free.
How will you know that dengue is gone?
We will use monitoring traps across the island to monitor progression of the campaign. Some 800 traps will be deployed and surveyed weekly for the presence of mosquitoes. Cases of dengue in humans are already closely monitored in Aruba, and we will use this information also. The goal is straightforward: no more cases, no more mosquitoes.
Surely mosquitoes have a role in nature. What happens when you eliminate them?
This is a valid point. Mosquitoes form part of the food chain and occur at the bottom of the pyramid. If we remove them, then higher species depending on them for survival can switch to other food sources. Unless they are specialist feeders. To date, however, science has not identified such specialist predators. In the aquatic stage, mosquito larvae do serve as a food source for many other organisms (e.g. fish) and in some parts of the world their overall biomass is critical in sustaining an environmental equilibrium. However, disease vectors like the African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae s.l. or the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti occupy small breeding sites in which the biodiversity is absolutely minimal. Removal of larvae from such small sites will have minimal impact on the ecosystem. Adult mosquitoes play a (minor) role in pollination of plants, and may serve as a food source to predators like dragonflies and bats. However, a study on bats in Germany pointed out that mosquitoes form only a minimal proportion of their diet.
How can the community participate?
The population of Aruba can play an important role in this operation, by cleaning up potential breeding sites around the house. This will greatly facilitate the work of the inspectors and lead to more rapid progress towards elimination. Although community engagement is important, and we will do all we can to involve the community, the success of the programme will not hinge on this. That’s why we have an ‘army’ of inspectors to do the job. Our rationale behind this is that nowhere, ever in history, have communities succeeded in eliminating a mosquito-borne disease. The final push needs to come through a vertical, rigorously executed programme.
What will the operation cost?
The cost of dengue elimination will amount to 42 Afl per inhabitant of Aruba, per year, for three years, coming to a total of 14 million Afl. The vast majority (ca. 85%) of this money will flow directly back into the local economy, through employment of Aruban nationals in the project, and purchasing of goods and consumables locally on the island. Only 6 project staff will come from outside Aruba.
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