July 26, 2005 – Mosquitoes that carry the dengue fever virus were found breeding in a pile of abandoned tires Tuesday in Estate Williams Delight in the west end of St. Croix, according to a statement issued by Darlene Carty, department of health commissioner.
A team of environmental health officers who were conducting entomology training and surveillance made the discovery about 11 a.m. Tuesday. Approximately 50 tires, which had been disposed of illegally, were found in an abandoned building next to an occupied building, No. 281, in the Williams Delight housing community. The community has been identified as a "hot spot" for dengue fever.
The environmental health division notified the V.I. Housing Authority, which is responsible for the community, and gave them two hours to dispose of the tires. The area was cleaned up in the required time, environmental health officer Stevie Webster said.
"A substantial number" of Aedea Aegypti mosquitoes were found in the tires, according to the press release. Webster was accompanied by Centers for Disease Control biologists Amador Manuel and Joshua Smith, along with five pre-medical students working with the Department of Health.
The press release did not state where the V.I. Housing Authority disposed of the illegally dumped tires after they cleaned them up.
The Virgin Islands has been facing a problem with the disposal of tires for several years. The Anguilla landfill stopped accepting tires in 2001. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued warnings to the Virgin Islands government about the health hazard posed by the landfill, citing, among other dangers, underground fires fueled by abandoned tires.
Only two companies on St. Croix, Zennon Construction and Emerald K Tires, accept old tires, charging a disposal fee of about $4 for each tire. The situation has resulted in indiscriminate tire dumping all around the island.
The situation is much the same on St. Thomas. However, the Legislature in February passed a rezoning bill to allow a tire shredder to operate in the Bovoni area. (See "Rezoning Passes Unanimously Tires to Get Shredded".) At the time, St. Croix senators asked about resolving the abandoned tire problem on St. Croix. Sen. Terrance "Positive" Nelson remarked that tires were being abandoned in the rain forest. Edgar Baker-Phillips, deputy director of Property and Procurement, responded that once the tires were shredded on St. Thomas, the operation could be moved to St. Croix. That hasn't happened yet.
In October 2004, a St. Thomas infant died of dengue hemorrhagic fever. Back then, no cases of dengue fever had been reported on St. Croix, according to Gregory Davila, public relations officer for the Juan F. Luis Hospital. (See "Dengue Fever the Focus of Territory CDC Conferences".) St. Croix would not see its first dengue-related death until eight months later.
On June 18, Kamarah Isaac, a 14-year-old female resident of Williams Delight, died at Juan F. Luis Hospital of dengue shock syndrome, a rare complication of dengue fever. According to DOH officials, there have been 11 confirmed cases of dengue on St. Croix, with more than 200 suspected cases reported. On St. Thomas and St. John, there have been nine confirmed cases. The DOH did not have a figure on the number of reported cases of dengue for that district.
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