By Chioma Obinna
Following prediction by the Lancet, experts at the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, have begun mapping of areas across the country that are likely to be most at risk to mosquitoes that spread the virus.
Disclosing this in Lagos during the 3rd Annual Scientific Conference organised by the Pan-African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA), the Coordinator of Malaria Research Programme at NIMR, Dr Samuel Awolola, who stressed that Zika was not in Nigeria presently but was not new, disclosed that NIMR had already begun mapping of possible areas the virus can be found in the country.
At the event with the theme: “Control of Mosquito Vectors: Opportunities and Challenges in the 21st Century”, Awolola stated that Zika was first diagnosed in Nigeria in 1978, but urged Nigerians not to panic as the country is prepared to tackle it if it surfaces.
“It is not that we don’t know what the virus is or the vector that transmits it, but we have not been able to link it up with what we are seeing in Brazil and South America.”
He said the conference was organised to look at the challenges facing vector control in the region adding that although, elimination of mosquitoes may not be 100 percent but there is need to bring it down to a level that can no longer be of a public health importance.
In his own view, the Director-General, NIMR, Professor Babatunde Salako, who oberved the dearth of entomologists in the country said it was a major challenge facing mosquito control in Nigeria.
Salako who explained that entomologists are vector control managers and researchers who work together and share information on mosquito control emphasised the need to ensure mosquitoes are properly controlled.
“The common resistance to vector control is the use of insecticides, which we still need to carry out different studies on.”
Corroborating his views, the Coordinator, National Malaria Elimination Programme, NMEP, Dr. Audu Bala, affirmed that the major threat to effective vector control for malaria elimination globally remains the growing evidence of vector resistance to the main insecticides that are deployed programmatically.
“This threat undermines the successes achieved and the efforts geared toward effective malaria vector control, both globally and indeed regionally, especially in Nigeria.
It also underscores the need to put in place appropriate mechanisms for surveillance of the local malaria vectors in order to establish sustainable mechanisms for management of vector resistance in the country.”
Already, six vector surveillance sentinel sites have been established across the country to carry out activities on malaria vector surveillance and insecticide resistance monitoring through our organisation.