Plan to combat Woodland’s mosquito infestation: Dengue battle

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

BREEDING GROUNDS: Activist Edward Moodie shows some
mosquito larvae at Hosein’s Avenue, Woodland on July 7. – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

AS concern grows over the spread of dengue nationally, president of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group (SORFAG) Edward Moodie plans to reintroduce predatory animal species into several acres of lagoons to disrupt mosquito breeding in Woodland.

When Newsday visited the community on July 7, Moodie said the mosquito population had skyrocketed and hundreds of people were at risk of contracting dengue.

Woodland residents contracting dengue fever

Residents along the Pluck Road area could list almost half a dozen people in their community who had been diagnosed with dengue and almost double that for those with symptoms but not formally determined.

Among the concerned residents was Tara Jaglal, who fears her eight-year-old granddaughter may be one of the latest victims, after she began suffering from a high fever and headaches on the night of July 6.

“Right now, we have pawpaw (papaya) leaf and I trying to make something for her to drink.”

Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito. Endemic to TT for over 30 years, dengue fever is characterised by a sudden high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands and a rash that appears three-four days after the fever starts.Pawpaw-leaf tea is an alternative medicine often used to treat the condition.

Tara and her husband, Roy, have lived in the community for 43 years. Surrounded by a lagoon, they said mosquitoes have always been an issue during the rainy season, but believe it was worse this year.

“It always have mosquitoes in Woodland, you know, but the amount this time is a big, big difference. I don’t know where all them mosquito come out from,” Roy said.

“We always have the door closed, day and night. We can’t open it in the day because you fraid they come in inside… so you always have the place close up, lighting cockset (mosquito coils) and buying a lot of creams to rub in our hand and foot and thing.”

Lack of spraying

According to residents, there are at least four cases of people with dengue in Tennant Trace, Pluck Road, with at least one contracting the disease within the last week.

Donna Ramcharran has bought various chemicals to spray around her home to protect her daughter, who suffers from a medical condition which places her at high risk of an adverse outcome should she contract dengue.

“I went and I buy Malathion to spray around my house plus I buy a medication to spray inside my house for the mosquitoes.

Tara Jaglal boils pawpaw leaves to make medicine to combat dengue at her Woodland home on July 7. – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

“Nobody coming to spray, so we have to do that just to prevent our families from getting sick, because to stay in the hospital is a whole long drama by itself. When my daughter staying, I have to stay too because she’s underage.”

Jaglal also complained that they had not benefited from mosquito spraying by the Siparia Regional Corporation or the Ministry of Health’s Insect Vector Control Division.Siparia Mayor Doodnath Mayroo could not be reached for comment. He previously said the corporation was engaged in spraying and had requested assistance from the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government.

Although unable to say whether spraying was done in his area, Vijai Seegobin said this year’s mosquito population appears to be the worst he has seen in the six years he has been living there.

A natural plan to curb mosquito population

Giving Newsday a tour of part of the 65 acres of wetlands through Rahamut Trace, the SORFAG head blamed the perceived increase in mosquitoes on a large inflow of salt water from the sea when the South Oropouche River’s banks were compromised during floods last year.

“We showed proof: all the fishes, the native species, they died out of the salt. EMA (the Environmental Management Agency) did their testing and they showed that the water was actually brackish, meaning it had a higher-than-normal salt content.

“With all the fishes and all the other organisms dead that cannot withstand the salt, we have now fresh water coming in because of the rainfall, and the mosquitoes are breeding unperturbed because there are no natural predators.

“Even the dragonfly population, this year, we are seeing it at a much lower level. Normally, the dragonfly larvae would feed very veraciously on the mosquitoes.”

He said while the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are benefiting from the conditions, there are other more dominant species present which are a nuisance to residents and livestock.

Newsday did not need to look far for proof there was an Aedes aegypti mosquito population present, as this reporter was bitten twice by the insect with a distinctive white-patterned body.

Dipping his hand into one of thousands of puddles in the swampland, Moodie picked out dozens of larvae.

“Imagine that over 65 acres.”

Activist Edward Moodie wants to reintroduce cascadura into Woodland to combat the area’s mosquito problem. – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

Moodie said he has plans to revitalise the Woodland ecosystem and build ecotourism through a sustainable climate-resilient initiative. This, he said, includes reintroducing some of the mosquito’s natural predators into the lagoons, like cascadura, which would help combat the spread of dengue.

“We are going to try to rear and breed 10,000 cascadura fingerlings. We are going to take them from the egg stage and reintroduce them back to mostly Rahamut Trace, because this is where the wide open swamp is, and where the salt water had its greatest effect.”

This initiative, he said, would take around four -six months to take hold, because that’s how long it takes the fish species to begin reproducing.

He said he already has farmers on board and was trying to raise some $30,000 to fund the project. He believes if government agencies can spray the wetlands to mitigate the threat in the short term, the combined efforts could see a significant reduction in the mosquito population and the dengue threat in the medium to long term.

Additionally, he believes the plan, along with increased education on sustainable practices, could breathe new life into the once-budding Woodland cascadura fishing industry.

Newsday was unable to reach Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Kazim Hosein for comment on the matter up to press time. Questions were sent to his communications team.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed 190 dengue cases in TT, with two fatalities, the most recent reportedly being a Fyzabad teen.