A permanent solution
The world is catching up
Although the world is slowly catching up on the idea that permanently removing mosquito-borne disease can only be successful if conducted on a large scale, we consider this vital. If you remove all mosquito larvae from your backyard you will be bitten by mosquitoes bred in your neighbour’s garden. If you clean out your neighbourhood you’ll be bitten less. If you remove mosquitoes from an area that extends a few miles beyond your neighbourhood you’ll have a peaceful night. Scale matters.
History has shown that control operations against insect pests, when conducted on a large scale, can lead to their permanent removal. The New World Screwworm fly, a pest in the cattle industry, was removed from the entire USA and Central America in a campaign that lasted four decades and deployed the so-called Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). The largest success against an insect pest in history. Permanency is sustained by having a broad area across Panama where sterile insects continue to be released. The result: huge economic benefits, amounting to an estimated 4 billion dollars per annum.
Can the same be achieved against mosquitoes? Most certainly. Historical campaigns against mosquitoes, with the aim to eliminate them, have been conducted in various places and include tropical countries.
The removal of an invasion of the African malaria mosquito Anopheles arabiensis from an area of 54.000 km2 of Brazil in 1939/40 serves as an example of how large infestations can be permanently wiped out. In Africa, an invasion from Sudan along the Nile in Egypt was successfully removed during WWII. Malaria has never been a problem in Egypt since. The man behind these historical successes was the legendary Dr. Fred L. Soper.
Re-infestation through (air)transport or ships
Will removal not lead to re-infestation through (air)transport or ships? This is an important issue. Once an island is cleared of mosquitoes, how can you be certain that it remains free? Or worse, that after several years of being disease-free, transmission starts again and hits a non-immune population? We believe that the key to this issue is management. Not tools.
Excellent monitoring tools
Over the last few decades excellent monitoring tools have been developed, that are sensitive enough to detect an invasion soon after its arrival. These surveillance tools can be deployed in sensitive parts of islands, like airports or harbours. Once a re-infestation happens it can be removed. Over the last decade there have been several small-scale outbreaks of exotic mosquito species in Northern Europe. Virtually all of these were contained before a mosquito population could become established beyond control. So in technical terms there is no problem: we can detect outbreaks, and we can eliminate them. Where we have gone wrong in the past is vigilance. Keeping a tight watch on possible re-invasions and stopping these before its too late. Management of a well-equipped monitoring and surveillance unit is the simple key to success. In practice, the cost of maintaining such a unit is a mere fraction of the costs that comes with disease control at present.
At Soper Strategies, we think that this shows us two things. First, that insect pests can be permanently removed from huge areas in a permanent manner, and second that keeping such areas free in a durable manner is related to the proper maintenance of a monitoring and surveillance unit that can quickly detect and eliminate a re-invasion.
Physical and ecological islands
Islands in particular are highly suitable for mosquito elimination, and these can be physical islands or ecological islands. Physical islands are bordered by the sea and isolated from other infestations when the distance is several kilometers; ecological islands are infestations bordered by inhospitable environments like deserts or high mountain ridges.
In the case studies we show several physical and ecological islands that are ideal for permanent removal of mosquito vectors and provide a permanent solution to the dengue or malaria problems experienced there.