MISSISSIPPI FISH FIGHT MALARIA IN HAITI
(FoxNews.com) - By Elizabeth Prann
After Haiti was rocked by an earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people, millions donated food, water and supplies to the country.
One group sent marine life.
About 2,000 tiny fish have been flown from Mississippi to Haiti to help control the spread of malaria and the West Nile virus. They are called Gambusia or mosquito fish. One lone minnow can devour several hundred mosquitoes and mosquito larvae each day. Health experts deployed the fish to control the mosquito population in post-Katrina New Orleans when flood waters ravaged that city.
A humanitarian organization called Operation Blessing International sent members to Haiti during the relief efforts. That's when it was clear to the group's president Bill Horan, the threat of disease through mosquito bites could be much worse in Haiti than in New Orleans five years ago.
"I came to Haiti in May of 2009 and right away I noticed a lot of mosquitoes here," Horan said. "And they have malaria [in Haiti]. I thought, wouldn't it be great to bring mosquito fish to Haiti."
OBI has worked with the fish before. In 2005 the group placed fish in more than 5,000 swimming pools that had been contaminated after the Hurricane Katrina. Horan told Fox News the pools were turning into a breeding grounds for the West Nile virus and other deadly diseases. The Centers for Disease Control had alerted city and state officials to a potential outbreak.
"We knew what the solution was," Horan said. "We needed to populate the swimming pools with the mosquito fish."
Horan believed the same bug-eating fish that helped spare New Orleans from virus outbreaks, could also help prevent disease in Haiti.
This week, about 2,000 minnows were transported from Mississippi to Haiti where they live in a 6,000 gallon open water tank. The fish need to acclimate and breed before they are stocked in standing water, lakes and pools. Horan hopes that ideal breeding grounds in the tanks will help the fish population soar from just 2,000 to around 200,000 in a matter of months.
"We’re not going to start planting until we have a substantial number," he said. "I estimate within 90 to 100 days we’ll have hundreds of thousands of fish so we can start planting."
This is just the latest project by OBI to improve health conditions in Haiti. They have been working on HIV/AIDs preventive programs and care since 2005. The group also provided clean drinking water shortly after the earthquake to stop the spread of water-borne disease.