Winning the Ancient Man-Mosquito Conflict – GFA World Report Part 2

WILL POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA World and affiliates like Gospel for Asia Canada) founded by KP Yohannan, has published this 2nd part of a special report update on the victory of the old conflict against mosquitoes and vector-borne diseases .

World Mosquito Day commemorates the discovery in 1897 by British physician Sir Richard Ross that mosquitoes transmit malaria. GFA World employees organize various events to distribute mosquito nets to protect against insect-borne diseases, including yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever and zika. These mosquito net recipients in South Asia are smiling with satisfaction as they can now sleep without discomfort or fear of mosquito bites at night.

Other ways to control mosquitoes, vector-borne diseases

Local and global management of mosquito-borne viruses, many of which have no vaccine to prevent or cure to stop disease progression, must be based on preventive and palliative measures.

A woman installs a mosquito net.
United Republic of Tanzania: A woman installs a mosquito net to protect her family at night from mosquito bites. WHO Photo / S. Hollyman

First, there are protective measures that individuals can apply when traveling or living in mosquito-infested territories. For example, local residents can start by emptying all the containers filled with water lying around the yard, the house or the apartment, or in the alleys or garbage collection centers. Turn that plastic pool upside down and refill it if needed. Discard any bowls that animals feed from. Some outdoor containers may have holes drilled in their bases so water will drain out. Clean gutters so they aren’t clogged with leaves or debris, which stops rainwater from flowing out and lets it pool for days. These practices prevent mosquitoes from breeding in standing water.

Many of these reduction methods are a matter of caution and common sense when it comes to standing water sources. For example, keep the grass mowed, cut the bushes and rake the dead leaves. These are all places where mosquitoes like to hide and breed. Some recommend that all low depressions in a yard be filled in because they will hold water after lawn irrigation or rain. Swimming pools, of course, should be kept clean and chlorinated. Stocking small ponds with fish can deter mosquitoes, as the fish eat mosquito larvae. As a last resort, in case of mosquito swarms, spray insecticides.

This, of course, brings its own set of problems, since most foggers or sprayers have bold warnings on their labels. The possibility of inadvertent poisoning by the user from these highly lethal compounds is highlighted by the warnings on them. For personal protection, a variety of organic repellents without DEET (diethyltoluamide) are on the market. Many are safe to use around children. In our modern, chemical-wary society, various natural approaches to controlling hordes of mosquitoes are recommended, including growing plants that repel mosquitoes. The smell of marigolds, lavender, sage, rosemary and Thai lemon grass make them ideal candidates. A sprig of fresh rosemary placed in water for a few minutes and then placed on a hot grill is recommended as a natural repellent. Also, pots of basil, lemon balm, catnip, or lemongrass placed on the patio or outside sleeping areas help reduce mosquito colonies.

For travelers or people living in high-risk areas like South Asia, a range of personal techniques can be used to combat the potential for mosquito bites. These include in particular the following:

Vaccine

To have vaccinated against diseases such as yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. For all other mosquito-borne diseases, which have no vaccines or drugs, the key strategy is to prevent mosquito bites.

Long-sleeved clothing and pants

Cover up with long sleeve clothing and pants when you’re on the move, especially at dusk or at night when you’re most at risk, and avoid light-colored clothing.

Mosquito coil

Burn mosquito coils under your dining table when you are seated or eating out.

Insecticide

As soon as possible, use insect repellent which is approved as safe and effective.

Window or door screens

Utilize window or door screens to keep mosquitoes away from your home.

Sleep under a mosquito net the night.

Photo by WHO/HTM/GVCR/2017.01 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO)

Since so many of South Asia’s poorest families cannot afford insect repellent, mosquito nets or long-sleeved clothing, it becomes essential for non-profit organizations like GFA World to provide mosquito nets that will protect them at least at night.

Distribution of mosquito nets
Mosquito nets only need to be changed once every 3 to 5 years. Here, a new stock of mosquito nets is distributed to residents of the village of Patang, Cambodia. WHO Photo / S. Hollyman

A childhood memory of the “Big Ditch”

A long time ago, as a schoolgirl, I was asked to read a book called Mosquitoes in the Great Divide. It is the historical account, in children’s literature, of the opening of the Panama Canal, which finally took place after a great failure and great loss of life.

Ship passing through the new locks of Agua Clara, Panama Canal.
Ship passing through the new locks of Agua Clara, Panama Canal. Photo by Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Panama Canal crosses the isthmus that connects Panama to Costa Rica to the north and Colombia to the south. Prior to its engineering, ships had to traverse the southern coast of South America, a long journey beyond anyone’s reach. The French had attempted to cut through this landmass and create the massive trench that would allow ships to cut their shipping route from east to west (or vice-versa) for thousands of miles. However, due to epidemics of malaria and mainly yellow fever, the French eventually withdrew, and after two decades of hard work and $287 million in investment, the canal project was halted in 1889.

At this point, the United States purchased the rights to develop the canal from the now-bankrupt French for a fraction of the cost. In the history of entomological transmission, Americans had to succeed where many had failed because a handful of scientists proved that yellow fever was caused by the transmission of Aedes aegypti mosquito. Prior to this discovery, the high incidence of infection was attributed to poor water, stale air, and disastrous medical care decisions that allowed the disease to spread.

William C. Gorgas
William C. Gorgas Photo from Wikimedia

U.S. Army physician Major Walter Reed finally demonstrated unequivocally that the vector of yellow fever was the Aedes aegypti. A newly emerged mosquito was allowed to feed on an ailing patient and then bite fellow volunteers. As expected, they succumbed to yellow fever a few days later. Fortunately, they recovered from the successful experience.

In 1904, the Chief Sanitary Officer of the United States, Dr. William Gorgas, set out to eradicate yellow fever-carrying mosquitoes from the 500 square miles of the Jungle Canal Zone. Some 4,000 workers, thousands of gallons of insecticide spray, 120 tons of pyrethrum insecticide powder, 300 tons of sulfur and 600,000 gallons of oil later, the job was done.

It was to be the first of several thousand such efforts, large and small, that would be carried out in the decades since mosquitoes were defeated in the Big Ditch. It is a war, unfortunately, that must be won and won and won.

And while mosquitoes were momentarily defeated to build the Big Ditch, the ancient war between man and mosquito still rages in places like South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. And it takes “getting to know the enemy” to accomplish the task of eradicating vector-borne diseases and protecting people from deadly mosquito bites.

You can help this effort today by donating to provide mosquito nets to people in South Asia at risk of mosquito bites. Your $50 donation will provide mosquito nets to five families in Asia and protect them from deadly mosquito-borne diseases.

The bump on my hand, in its conglomerate potential, isn’t so small after all.


Donate mosquito nets

Find out how your donation protects families in Asia against vector-borne diseases.


Read the rest of the Gospel for Asia special report: Win the ancient conflict between man and mosquito: Know your enemy or succumb to vector-borne diseases Part 1

This special report was originally published on gfa.org.

Learn more by reading this special report from Gospel for Asia: The scourge caused by mosquitoes affects even developed countriesMalaria alone kills 400,000 people a year


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