Entomologists trained in vector control techniques to prevent the spread of Zika

In 2015, the first case of the Zika virus transmitted locally in Latin America was identified in Brazil. One year later, more than 33 countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region were affected by the virus and the World Health Organization had declared a public emergency. While the spread of the virus is no longer considered an international emergency, nearly 50 countries in the region are at risk of Zika infection.

Twenty-four people participated in the ZAP entomology training, including Dr. Mirna Gavidia, a vector control technician working for the Ministry of Health in El Salvador. Photo credit: Diana Romero Arias

The Zika AIRS Project (ZAP), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is working to reduce the burden of vector-borne diseases, including Zika, in the region through robust entomological monitoring, environmental management and larviciding. Because little is known about the Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits the virus, ZAP held a Regional Entomology Training in El Salvador from May 2-6, 2017, to ensure local entomologists have the skills needed to study these mosquitoes. Twenty-four people, including entomologists and vector control technicians from ZAP and the Ministries of Health from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, participated.

The training introduced entomologists from Latin America and the Caribbean to vector control techniques,  including how to collect, preserve, and manage vector colonies; insecticide resistance monitoring using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization bioassays; insectary management best practices, analysis and interpretation of entomological data, and dissecting methods. Participants shared different approaches being implemented in the region to prevent the transmission of Zika and related arboviruses.

The workshop took place in the insectary and vector control laboratory from the University of El Salvador in San Salvador. The team also had the opportunity to get hands-on experience by setting BG-Sentinels, Bug-Dorm Cages, Gravid Traps, and using Prokopack aspirators in households located at the Municipality of Mejicanos, one of the municipalities with higher transmission rates of Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue.

The main presenters were Dr. Dereje Dengela, ZAP Technical Director; Dr. Nelson Grisales, ZAP Regional Entomologist; and Dr. Haroldo da Silva Bezerra, Advisor of Public Health Entomology from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Facilitators included the Chief of the Vector Unit of the Ministry of Health in El Salvador, Ing. Eduardo Romero, and Dr. Eduardo Quevedo, Project Manager from USAID