In our special series this week we’re looking at efforts to fight malaria. One tool used by health professionals is indoor residual spraying, or IRS. Insecticides are applied to the interior walls of homes to protect the family against the mosquito that carries the disease. With IRS, protection can be guaranteed for up to one year.
Manuel Lluberas is a medical entomologist who chairs a U.N. Committee on Science and Technology and has worked on indoor spraying in many African countries.
He told voa reporter Angel Tabe where he has focused his efforts mostly in Southern Africa (except for Congo), as well as in Liberia, Benin, Cameroon, Sudan and Chad. Lluberas say thanks to their national campaigns against the disease, there have been significant drops in recorded malaria cases. “There have been areas in Southern Africa where malaria has been pushed from number one in the list of communicable diseases, to number eight. Among them: Zanzibar, Nungusha, Pemba Islands and parts of Zambia.”
Some of the indoor treatments use the chemical DDT, which was banned in many countries for agricultural use out of concern that it could poison food supplies. However, Lluberas says, “[Indoor Residual Spraying] is safe. First of all, the population is just receiving the protection, not applying anything and the toxicity is very, very low for humans, including children [And pregnant women].” . “Contrary to popular belief,” he says,” DDT was never banned from use in public health [though it was in some cases for agriculture]… DDT is very effective, but it has to be managed correctly.”
Each IRS treatment lasts between four to twelve months. The effectiveness of the spray depends on the type of house and construction material. Lluberas explains that the insecticidal sprays lasts longer in homes built with mud thatch and ordinary bricks while those with painted surfaces, normally associated with richer people, do not last as long.. Lluberas says treatment is provided to all people in a malaria-prone area, regardless of their incomes.