Health Care

New chief hired to lead Miami-Dade’s beefed up mosquito control division

Bill Petrie, director of the Cayman Islands’ Mosquito Control and Research Unit, has 30 years experience in mosquito control. He has been hired to lead Miami-Dade County’s mosquito control division, beginning on Aug. 14. In the Cayman Islands, Petrie helped oversee the government’s partnership with the British biotech firm, Oxitec to use genetically modified male mosquitoes to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito population, which can transmit Zika, dengue, chikungunya and other diseases.
Bill Petrie, director of the Cayman Islands’ Mosquito Control and Research Unit, has 30 years experience in mosquito control. He has been hired to lead Miami-Dade County’s mosquito control division, beginning on Aug. 14. In the Cayman Islands, Petrie helped oversee the government’s partnership with the British biotech firm, Oxitec to use genetically modified male mosquitoes to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito population, which can transmit Zika, dengue, chikungunya and other diseases. Cayman Compass

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.

Miami Beach residents along with their allies protest outside Miami Beach City Hall after the county announced it would start aerial spraying of the insecticide need to reduce the number of Zika-carrying mosquitoes on the island on Sept. 7, 2016.

“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.

0031 Mosquito SEASON 051917
Miami-Dade County inspector Carlos Lanzas sprays a larvicide treatment at a home in South Dade in this May 2017 photo. Miami-Dade County has ramped up efforts to control the urban mosquito species that last year spread the Zika virus. Workers have been applying larvicide year round, an effective tool to stop breeding. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

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.

Daniel Chang: 305-376-2012, @dchangmiami

  Comments