Come August 2016 the world would be focused on the summer Olympic games and a good number of countries are already concerned about preemptive measures taken by the host country in preventing exposure of athletes and visitors to mosquitoes and by extension curbing the spread of the Zika virus to more countries. Well having a few months between now and August, a solution seems to be on the way, one akin to fighting fire with fire.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has agreed to help Brazil by bringing in Gamma Cell Irradiators to help battle the Zika virus. The Gamma Cell Irradiators will help sterilize male mosquitoes which will be released to areas most affected by the Zika virus in the country.
The equipment is basically a nuclear related application that uses a cobalt-60 gamma cell irradiator in a Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). SITs have been in use in agriculture even in Nigeria and are a form of pest control that sterilizes a large amount of the male pest and then release these male insects to mate with the female population, since the male are sterile the females end up producing unfertilized eggs thus reducing the insect population to a negligible number over time.
The announcement was made as experts from 12 countries converged in Brasilia for a two-day meeting to share experiences and lessons on the use of SITs as a means of controlling mosquito populations along with other methods, such as site inspections and fumigation.
The meeting, organized in cooperation with Brazilian Ministry of Health, is part of the IAEA’s response to the current Zika outbreak in Central and South America. The World Health Organization had earlier declared Zika an international public health emergency this month.
Experts at the meeting agreed that SIT was an efficient, safe, environmentally neutral and sustainable method to control mosquito populations and fight vector-borne diseases like Zika and dengue fever.