This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

February 24, 2016

Trapping the Zika Virus

As the Zika Virus spreads through South and Central America, it is merely another in the long line of mosquito-borne diseases to create a new public health emergency. This line of pandemics includes (but is not limited to) Dengue, Malaria, and West Nile.

The threat posed by Zika
Previously considered a minimal threat, the Zika virus has now been linked to birth defects, including Hydrocephaly, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, an auto-immune disease characterized by rapid-onset muscle weakness.

Local and community solutions
The New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), a research and education institute based in Cambridge, Massachusetts has outlined a pragmatic community-based response plan. In addition to limiting exposure to mosquitoes and advising travelers, NECSI's plan takes control efforts one step further: offering female mosquitoes a place to lay their eggs---but with a deadly surprise.

"Ovitraps" to the rescue
Most mosquito control plans depend on eliminating standing water or draining mosquito breeding sites to reduce their reproduction. The particular mosquito spreading Zika actually prefers water in manmade vessels. NECSIÕs plan promotes counteracting the mosquito problem by having households deliberately set out containers of water for female mosquitoes to lay their eggs in. However, these containers (painted black) are, in fact, traps. The mosquitoes lay their eggs, that are killed before they can hatch and develop. *

Proven effective and easy-to-make
Made from easily obtained materials and proven effective in past studies by the United States military, Ovitraps are simple but effective and can be deployed by every household. The more traps there are to compete with hidden breeding sites, the lower the chances of successful mosquito reproduction.

Other suggestions from NECSI
In combination with traps, NECSI reinforces the traditional suggestions of public health organizations, including the use of protective clothing, insect repellant, and mosquito screens where possible. To respond to the low availability of screens in some of the affected regions, the organization has suggested that public buildings and businesses that have screens and/or air conditioning provide shelter to the community during times of peak mosquito activity.

More scourges to come
The Zika Virus is another in the progression of nasty viruses that seem to incubate in tropical regions. We can be grateful that not only has NECSI developed and published a response plan, but that they will be there to help with future disease challenges. There will be more diseases to come; we can only hope that NECSI and perhaps others will offer workable solutions we can live with.

* Check out videos on to find explicit instructions for constructing Ovitraps.

To read NECSI's entire plan in English, Spanish, or Portuguese, visit

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