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Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, ll(2):256-257,1995

Copyright @ 1995 by the American Mosquito Control Association, Inc.

VECTOR CONTROL WITHOUT CHEMICALS:


A PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE
J. A. MULRENNAN. JR.

Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control,


Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Semices,p. O. Box 10,
Jacksonville.FL 32231

ABSTRACT. A public health perspectiveofvector control without pesticidesdiscusses2 scenarios,


one where vector-borne diseaseis present and one where vector-borne diseaseis absent.The conclusion
is that in situations where diseaseis present,particularly in epidemics,pesticidesare necessaryand there
will be a requirement for pesticides into the future. Where diseaseis not presont, nonchemical means of
vector control may be a viable option.

INTRODUCTION campaignaimed at the people living in the areas


If one is to consider the public health per- where human encephalitis caseswere occurring
was very effective in reducing the number ofcases
spectiveof vector control without chemicalsand
(Meehanet al. l99l). The endemicdiseasesce-
the implications of such a strategy, one must
nario is entirely different from the epidemic one,
consider2 scenarios.First, there is vector control
mainly becausethere is no senseof urgency, as
where a diseaseis present, and second,there is
vector control where there is no disease. numerous casesare not occufring in a short pe-
riod of time. This allows for a more deliberate
and, one would hope, a longer lasting approach
CONTROL OF to control and in most casesgives one more op-
DISEASE YECTORS tions to consider. Malaria is a diseasethat fits
Let us take a look at the first perspective:vec- this scenario.Before DDT became available in
tor control wherea diseaseis present.This means the 1940s,malaria control in the United States
that we have vectors, such as mosquitoes,trans- was mostly nonchemical, with the exception of
mitting diseasesto humans or to reservoir hosts. Paris greenand petroleum-basedlarvicides. The
This may be an endemic or epidemic occurrence. approach was source reduction and mechanical
Our responseto each type of occurrencewill be exclusion. Breeding areaswere drained or filled
different. and screen doors and windows were frtted to
An epidemic requires immediate action to homesto excludethe vector. This program great-
control the infected vector and prvent further ly reduced the number of malaria cases.
transmission.The immediate action usually calls In the USA and a few other countries, malaria
for chemical control of the vector in order to was successfullyeradicated, and in other coun-
break the chain of infection. Historically, there tries (e.g., India), brought under control by the
are many examples where chemical control of residualsprayingof DDT inside dwellingsin ma-
vectors successfullyended an epidemic, which larious areas,a good example of effective chem-
include: l) the use of DDT dust to control body ical control ofa vector. However, due to various
lice on refugeesduring World War II and thus problems including insecticide resislancein the
end the transmissionofepidemic typhus (Mathe- vectors, we now seethis approach failing; in fact
son 1950), and 2) insecticide spraying on the insecticide resistance coupled with drug resis-
ground and by aircraft for controlling mosquito- tance in the malaria parasite compounds the dif-
borne encephalitis outbreaks in the USA (Fer- ficulty ofcontrolling this disease.It is apparent
nald 1963).Could theseoutbreaksoftyphus and that unless more effective chemicals are found,
encephalitishave been controlled without chem- chemical control alone is doomed to failure, at
icals? In the caseof typhus, in the wartime sit- least the traditional residual spraying of dwell-
uation, it is unlikely that any other approach to ings is doomed (Baker 1992).
control would have been effective. It is also If we accept that microbials (e.g., B.t.i.) and
doubtful that in the short term a more effective the insect growth regulators are nonchemical, and
means of control other than chemical control of we accept that source reduction may be a wiable
infected adult mosquitoes could have ended the option in countries that have endemic malaria,
St. Louis encephalitis outbreaks that have oc- then the possibility exists for control ofvectors
curred in various parts of the USA since the late without chemicals.However, there is possibility
1950s.However, in the 1990 St. I-ouis enceph- and there is reality. The reality is that there is a
alitic outbreak in Florida, a public information lack of financial resources,technical expertise,
256
JUNE1995 Vscron CoNrnor wlTHour CnBurcers 257

and political will to carry out a nonchemical ap- certainly an option that is used, is not always
proach to malaria control in most malarious ar- effectiv becauseareas are too vast or inacces-
eas of the world. This is why the development sible except by aircraft. The vector control pro-
of a malaria vaccine has such a high priority in gram is left with no alternative than to use chem-
the World Health Organization (Pan American ical adulticides to reduce the adult populations
Health Organization I 994). of mosquitoes.
So what is the answer to the premise of this
meeting? Can vector control be conducted with-
CONTROL OF VECTORS_
out chemicals?
WITHOUT DISEASE
I believe I have indicated that this may be
The secondperspective,the control ofvectors possible. However, in epidemic situations and
without the presenceof disease,provides more even in many nonepidemic ones, the control of
opportunities for controlling vectors u.ithout vectors will depend on the use of chemicals for
chemicalsbecausethere is no needto kill infected quick, or complete, results. I seeno effective short-
vectors, but instead the aim is to prevent pro- term alternative at this time. Our dependenceon
duction of sufficient numbers of vector mosqui- chemicalcontrol will remain with us for the fore-
toes that are capable of transmitting diseaseto seeablefuture.
humans. In mosquito control the most efficient
methods for accomplishing this aim are by source
reduction and/or larviciding. The use of insect REFERENCESCITED
growth regulators or microbial larvicides would Baker,R. H. 1992. Malaria.J. Fla. Mosq. Control
allow for vector control without chemicals.Pro- Assoc.53:39-47.
grams that are strictly larviciding or water man- Fernald,L. 1963. Encephalitis controloperationsin
agement programs, such as many of those pro- PinellasCounty,Florida,in 1962.Mosq.News23:
gramsconductedin California and otherwestern 49-50.
states,where most ofthe breedingareasare man- Matheson,R. 1950. Medicalentomology,2nd ed.
made,can and do conduct vector control without ComstockPubl.Co.,Ithaca,NY.
Meehan,P. R. Mullen,E. Bufi A. LewisandD. Wells.
chemicals.
1991. An epidemicof St.Louisencephalitis-Flor-
In the easternUSA, however, the situation is ida, 1990(anabstract).
J. Fla.Mosq.Control.Assoc.
quite different and breeding areas are primarily 62:45.
natural habitats (wetlands)where water manage- Pan American Health Organization. 1994. Malaria
ment is difficult, if not impossible, due to envi- vaccines:from laboratoryto field.Epidemiol.Bull.
ronmental constraints. Larviciding, although I 5 :l - l 6 .