The Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust held its first Open House for the Puerto Rico Vector Control Unit (PRVCU) to present its strategy for the integrated management of vectors, and also highlight the projects the initiative has undertaken since its creation in September 2016.
The PRVCU came to be in light of the challenges presented by dengue, zika and chikungunya, the result of a five-year, $14 million-dollar/year cooperative agreement between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Trust, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Department of Health.
The PRVCU combines surveillance and the monitoring of mosquitoes with community participation, education and mobilization. Since its creation, the entity has been hard at work in the development of its strategy with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and communities throughout the Island.
“The creation of the PRVCU is a great step forward in controlling Aedes aegypti in Puerto Rico, and as a result, in reducing the incidence of diseases transmitted by vectors,” said Lucy Crespo, CEO of the Trust.
“The PRVCU is not just another program. This Unit represents a new coalition of organizations committed to solving Puerto Rico’s long struggle with diseases transmitted by vectors,” she said. “This would not have been possible without the support of the Puerto Rico Department of Health, the CDC and a number of private, non-profit, and community organizations.”
Among the priorities the PRVCU set for itself in 2017 was the establishment of a laboratory and a surveillance network of the Aedes aegypti. The PRVCU also continues to prepare grassroots campaigns focused on education, and encouraging citizen and community participation in the effort to reduce Aedes aegypti breeding sites.
In the wake of hurricanes Irma and María, the PRVCU fulfilled its educational responsibility by launching the #LeySecaAlMosquito campaign in the press during the months of October and November. The effort addressed issues such as the handling of stagnant water and domestic water use, as well as the correct measures to take for personal protection.
The campaign also included a media tour, the delivery of educational material, community visits, information booths, talks, the distribution of insect repellent, and emergency monitoring services in collaboration with the CDC and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Among the recent collaborations undertaken by the PRVCU are: Timo Kids, a children’s education solutions company; and the organizations Para La Naturaleza and Casa Grande Interactive. The latter specializes in education and social transformation programs, creator of the New Virtual School.
These collaborative agreements help create alliances with a wide range of organizations to improve the program’s message in different, non-scientific networks. Through these efforts, the PRVCU seeks to reach children and adults to educate and create awareness of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and the diseases it transmits.
“Education is the first line of defense against mosquito borne diseases. It is also key to the development of an integrated vector management strategy that combines surveillance, monitoring and control, with community participation, education and mobilization. These agreements are proof of this,” said Marianyoly Ortiz, Associate Director of the PRVCU.