There’s a new mosquito control chief in town.
Bill Petrie, director of the Cayman Islands’ mosquito control agency, has been hired to lead Miami-Dade’s ramped-up mosquito control division, county officials confirmed Friday following reports by the island’s government and a local newspaper.
Petrie starts his new role on Aug. 14, said Gayle Love, division director for Miami-Dade County Solid Waste Management, which includes the mosquito control division.
“We’ve expanded the program, and it’s much more robust,” Love said.
A zoologist with a doctorate in mosquito biology, Petrie has overseen efforts on the Cayman Islands to use genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika, dengue, chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases.
But that doesn’t mean that Miami-Dade, which has considered deploying GMO mosquitoes in the fight against Zika, will use them.
“We look at all the emerging technology,” Love said. “It’s just experience that Petrie has had, but I can’t say that’s the direction we’ll be heading in.”
In Miami-Dade, Petrie will be paid $145,000 a year to oversee a mosquito-fighting division that was overwhelmed last year with the nation’s first outbreak of Zika spread by local Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
But the county’s mosquito control division has been shored up this year, with more funding, more workers, more surveillance traps and a year-round approach to fighting mosquitoes.
This year, Zika has kept a lower profile, with fewer cases and no local outbreaks reported by the Florida Department of Health, which monitors spread of the disease statewide.
State officials have reported 116 Zika infections this year, including 88 travel-related cases. An additional 28 Zika infections with exposure in 2016 but tested this year also have been reported, including six locally acquired cases and 22 with undetermined exposure.
However, a rising number of Zika-spreading mosquitoes across Miami-Dade has triggered more aggressive control efforts.