Soper Strategies
we eradicate mosquito-borne diseases

Operation Aruba


The objective of this operation is to eliminate Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits the dengue virus on Aruba. At present it is estimated that the cost of dengue amounts to Afl 8 million per year, because of health care costs, temporary loss of workforce costs, and insurance costs. This enormous financial burden can be reduced to zero by staging a war on the mosquito. An operation that has been carefully estimated to cost 13,8 million guilders over a three-year period. You don't need to be a mathematician or economist to figure out what the best option is...

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An operation of this kind has, twice before, been staged on Aruba. Both in the 1950s and 1970s, dengue mosquitoes were eliminated, and Aruba was free of the disease for a total of 21 years following these successes.
So it can be done. Historical proof exists. Unlike before, when mosquitoes came back (either by boat or aircraft), today we have excellent monitoring tools to quickly intercept any re-invasion and wipe it out before it spreads.
Aruba dengue free: It was done before, and we can do it again.
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There is only one species of mosquito in Aruba that transmits dengue, which is called the Yellow Fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti). This mosquito does not belong to the endemic fauna of Aruba, but is a so-called 'invasive species'. It originates from Africa, and travelled across the Atlantic ocean aboard ships during the slave-trade era. Upon arrival in the Caribbean, these mosquitoes settled and adapted.
In Aruba, the mosquito is a typical container breeder, and bites during the day, which makes its control difficult and necessitates the use of topical repellents for protection. The mosquito does not breed in the Salinas of Aruba.
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The dengue virus, like the mosquito that transmits it, originates from Africa. At present, there are 4 different types of the virus (so-called serotypes). Although these serotypes were linked to geographical regions, increased global travel has caused their dispersal and introduction in new regions.
In Aruba, previous epidemics resulted in the establishment of serotype 1, 2, and 3, and in 2011 the first confirmed presence of serotype 4 was reported. Once people become infected (through the bite of an infected mosquito that injects the virus whilst feeding), they can become very ill, with very high fevers, skin rash, joint- and headaches.
It is during this period (4-6 days) of high fever that virus circulates in the body that will infect any other mosquito that bites. It will then take 8-10 days of the virus to amplify in the mosquito and end up in its salivary glands.
It is thus of high importance to protect a person suffering from dengue during the 4-6 days of intense illness (because the virus will spread during that period). This can be done by putting the sick person under a bednet to avoid mosquito bites. People that have been infected with dengue virus will normally build up immunity (to the specific serotype they were infected with) that provides life-long protection. However, a new infection with another serotype can often progress in a more severe form of the disease, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), which can potentially be fatal.
Aruba had almost 3000 confirmed/suspected dengue infections in the first 9 months of 2011. Three cases proved fatal...
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Dengue is a disease that is closely linked to the environment and behavior of people. In places where waste management is not effective, and trash accumulates, dengue mosquitoes find good breeding sites when rainwater fills up containers and other water-holding objects (e.g. tires).
A clean environment has far less (potential) breeding sites and therefore less mosquitoes. Trash removal and waste management will form an integral part of the dengue elimination campaign in Aruba.
This has another advantage: Aruba will become a greener island.
Also, we will use biological pesticides that have minimum impact on the environment and non-target organisms therein.
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In Aruba, sustainable tourism = sustainable economy. Any threat to tourism poses a threat to the economy.
Dengue is the biggest health threat for tourists, and so it follows that dengue is a major threat to Aruba's economy. Although mosquitoes are tiny little creatures, they can ruin a country and its economy. Dengue outbreaks elsewhere (Puerto Rico in 2010, Maldives in 2011, as examples) have had a massive negative impact on the economy of these countries, because tourists cancelled their holidays being risk-averse. A recent analysis  undertaken in Aruba by health authorities showed that dengue is costing the country some 8 million guilders per year, a cost which will likely continue in the years to come (because more cases are expected). The elimination campaign will cost 13,8 million (for the full 40 months of operation), amounting to 4,14 million guilders per year. Clearly, the option for complete elimination, as was successful before, becomes appealing when looking at the costs.
Plus, once the island is free of dengue, savings of 8 million per annum will be incurred.

Dengue on Aruba