Mosquito-Eating Fish the Answer to Stopping the Zika Virus?
A recent outbreak of the Zika virus in Latin America has caused health officials to declare an international health emergency. The virus causes brain damage in babies, and it may also lead to severe neurological disorders.
CBN's Operation Blessing is on the scene in Latin America, using a unique approach to prevent the virus from spreading.
Health workers in Lima, Peru, continue to fumigate classrooms in hopes of preventing the spread of the deadly Zika virus.
But insecticide spraying - and mosquito nets - for the most part have proven ineffective in stopping the mosquito-called Aedes Aegypti, which spreads the Zika virus.
Operation Blessing International President Bill Horan explained that their ineffectiveness has to do when the mosquitos are active.
"Mosquito bed nets are not as effective as they were for most because the Aedes Aegypti sleeps at night. They don't bite often at night. These mosquitos are especially active right at dawn for about two hours and just before dark for about two hours," he said.
Based on Operation Blessing's experience in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Horan came up with a unique solution. The charity relief group is distributing mosquito eating fish like the indigenous Sambo fish in El Salvador.
"And we are using them, we're distributing them, and we are helping a woman who is raising them down there. But in Mexico now we have the okay right from the cabinet level of the Mexican government to use Gambuja that are found locally in Mexico to eat mosquito larvae," Horan explained.
Operation Blessing is working in the Acapulco area and soon in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula near Cancun.
On location in El Salvador, Operation Blessing's Tony Cece explained how the project works there.
"They're putting the fish in their sinks and into containers like this. Now this one is being used to store the Sambo fish, but in homes they use it to store water," Cece explained.
"And one of the problems is these are the breeding grounds for the Aedis Aegypti larvae, which are the mosquitos that carry the viruses like Chicken Gunyan, Denge, and now Zika," he continued.
The Zika virus has been linked to brain damage in babies and paralysis in others. Operation Blessing workers are raising awareness.
"We've learned in other outbreaks of epidemics like Cholera [and] Ebola, that awareness - making the public aware - especially the poor, who don't have access maybe to television, you know the way that we do or the Internet. We have our teams out making people aware of this Zika, what it is and how they can fight it themselves," Horan said.
Operation Blessing's efforts aren't limited to El Salvador and Mexico. On Thursday, Horan met with First Lady Ana Hernandez of Honduras to get her blessing to start mosquito-eating fish project in that Central American country.
"We're doing a great service, we're saving lives," Horan said. "We're eliminating suffering and we're going after this disease at its source, but wherever Zika goes, Operation Blessing is going to go also."