Fighting the Bite to Prevent Zika

ZAP Equips Guatemala with Skills to Fight Mosquito-borne Disease

The first time Juan Jose Diaz, Vector Control Coordinator for the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Chiquimula, Guatemala, heard about the Zika AIRS Project (ZAP) and all it had planned, he didn’t believe any of it would happen. Two years later, he’s an enthusiastic supporter.

Above: A ZAP Entomological lab technician identifies Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Photos: Laura McCarty/Abt Associates

“The project in scale and scope is much larger than we could implement,” said Diaz. “Mosquito indices have gone down and the number of positive Zika and dengue cases have decreased. Lives have been saved. We wish that the project was staying here forever.”

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development, ZAP is working in close coordination with the MOH to prevent, detect and respond to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, specifically the Zika virus. ZAP works with partners at national and departmental levels to kill mosquito larvae before they can develop into adults and spread disease by applying an organic chemical to standing water sources where mosquitoes can breed. Working with the MOH , ZAP has helped to protect 70,000 vulnerable households in the departments of Zacapa, El Progreso, and Chiquimula.

ZAP Guatemala also conducted indoor residual spraying (IRS), which kills the mosquitoes that transmit Zika by spraying an insecticide on the lower walls and other areas where mosquitoes rest. ZAP protected more than 14,000 people with IRS in 2018. ZAP also strengthened the capacity of the MOH to identify which mosquitoes carry viruses, the relative geographical and temporal distribution of the mosquitoes transmitting disease, and the feeding and resting habits of the mosquito. ZAP’s training is helping the MOH to carry out insecticide resistance testing according to international standards to ensure the most effective insecticides are being used to kill the mosquitoes. When insecticides are used too frequently or year after year, mosquitoes can become resistant.


ZAP Vector Control Technician Ana Jennifer Cordon applies larvicide to a beneficiary’s water source.

Miguel Reyes, a Field Technician from MOH and entomological supervisor at the entomology lab that ZAP helped to equip in Chiquimula, said, “We received a lot of training on how to test for insecticide resistance using World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols, as well as using other entomological tools for surveillance which are not typically used by the MOH in Guatemala. I’ve also learned how to organize and teach others what I know.”


With increased capacity in entomological monitoring and surveillance, Guatemala is better equipped to prevent and respond to mosquito-borne disease outbreaks.

“We have ownership of the project,” said MOH’s Diaz. “We are very happy.”