Naturalis Studying Mosquito/ Vector On St. Maarten

The Ministry of VSA recently received a courtesy visit from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center of Leiden, the Netherlands. The team was hosted by the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) in person Ms. Maria Henry and its vector team, from April 16th to April 20th in relation to a research project of potential mosquito-borne disease hazards currently being conducted by the team of Naturalis in the Dutch Leeward Islands.

“The project is focused on identifying the number of various species of mosquitos on the island. This is significance from a health perspective; to know since specific disease are carried by specific species of mosquitos. Having a better understanding of which mosquitos are actually, here on the island, gives us better insight on which diseases the population is at risk for. We also discussed various mitigation strategies, which was a very interesting and education conversation.” – Emil Lee, Minister Public Health

The project is funded by Gieskes Strijbis Fund. The Naturalis research team consisting of six students and two supervisors will be doing assessments on St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and then Saba. A baseline of potential mosquito-borne disease hazards on Saba, St Eustatius, and St Maarten is needed, but the vector fauna has not been surveyed since 11 species were found 60 years ago. Based on adjacent islands, between 20 and 25 species are likely to occur on the three islands, while the total number of species in the Lesser Antilles is almost 60. Moreover, the species’ local ecology is unknown. The Naturalis team will undertake an initial survey of natural and disturbed habitats on Saba, St Eustatius, and St Maarten.

“The circle that mosquitos will travel from their breeding site is a small circle. For example, Mosquitos in the Guana Bay area are not going to travel to the Colebay area or to St. Peters. The issues are very much localized issues. As a community, if we do a good job at regulating mosquito breeding sites and controlling the mosquito population in our neighborhoods, we will all see the results of improvement.” – Emil Lee, Minister Public Health

The accumulated data will describe the species and its habitants on St. Maarten as well as in comparison to its neighboring islands namely Saba & Sint Eustatius. Based on the findings of this project there may be possibilities to expand and/or repeat similar activities.