El Salvador

Zika virus: trapping the threat of disease

In El Salvador, a gram of yeast, two glasses of hot water, 50 grams of brown sugar, adhesive tape, plastic or black paper and a 2-litre plastic bottle are helping communities to reduce their risks of catching Zika virus disease.

Zika is a virus disease primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. The virus is now present in 26 countries and areas in the Americas.

Carlos López Mendoza, Salvadorean Red Cross spokesperson, explained how the trap works: “The mixture of yeast and sugar produces carbon dioxide, which is also generated by our bodies, so the mosquito goes after that smell, [gets trapped] and dies”.

“The trap must be set in a dark place and the mixture must be changed every 15 days. Only the plastic bottle should be re-used.”

The Salvadorean Red Cross has joined forces with the country’s media as part of its response to the Zika outbreak, and together they are disseminating information on how to prevent infection and eliminate or control mosquito populations – including by building homemade traps.

“Many sectors have taken an interest in explaining how to make this trap and have asked for more information,” said Carlos Mendoza. “We have prepared leaflets with step-by-step directions.”

These traps have been used in El Salvador for around a decade, having been first introduced by Cuban practitioners who offered training to the Salvadorean Ministry of Health and Red Cross personnel during an outbreak of dengue. Today, the Salvadorean Red Cross is the only organization providing information on how to make this trap.

Carlos stresses that this trap is only one of the measures communities should take to avoid mosquito bites. Getting rid of mosquitoes is not sufficient; eggs and larvae can only be eliminated by cleaning all breeding sites. In addition, the best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten.

Our slogan is therefore ‘CLEAN UP, COVER UP AND KEEP IT UP!’

This means:

  • remove, empty, clean and cover containers that hold water, at least once a week.
  • eliminate stagnant water in and around your home
  • remove rubbish as often as possible
  • fill containers with sand if you cannot empty them
  • use screens on windows and doors
  • wear clothing that covers arms and legs
  • regularly apply insect repellents that have been approved by health authorities. Repellent will last longer if applied to clothes.

This is a community action and we need to do it all together. A few infected mosquitoes can produce large outbreaks in a community and unless we all do our part, the mosquito will continue to threaten community health.