management

Mosquito Alert launches a new app

 

The Mosquito Alert project today launches a new app that should allow it to track the four invasive mosquitoes and disease transmitters that are colonizing and threatening Spain and Europe. This will not be the only novelty, the application releases a new module that will make it easier to study the behavior of mosquitoes and create a map of bites in humans. The information collected by the new app is essential to develop the project selected in the Health Call of “la Caixa” Foundation Big Mosquito Bytes, in which scientists from CEAB-CSIC, UPF, the Max Planck Institute for Demography, the National Epidemiology Center (CNE) CIBERSP / ISCIII and CREAF.

The project combines citizen science and massive data to develop innovative models that allow predicting the risk of outbreaks of some of the diseases transmitted by the tiger mosquito in Spain.

Thus, users cn now submit their observations through photos and identify new mosquito species such as the Japanese mosquito (Aedes japonicus) and the Korean mosquito (Aedes koreicus). Both are in addition to the species that the application has already registered since 2015: the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) established and abundant in Spain and the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti), not yet present in Spain.

The moment a person receives a mosquito bite, they can enter Mosquito Alert and indicate on a human silhouette in which part of the body it has been received, at what time of day, as well as whether it has been in an outdoor or indoor space. The time zone, the space and the place of the bites can help researchers to distinguish the incidences caused by the tiger mosquito and other Aedes mosquitoes, mainly diurnal, from those of the common mosquito, which operates at night.

“The information about the bites is important because it will allow us to better understand the interaction networks between mosquitoes and humans through which diseases circulate”, explains one of the co-directors of Mosquito Alert, John Palmer, professor at Pompeu Fabra University

With all this information, the risk of transmission of diseases such as dengue, Zika or West Nile fever can be better evaluated. The virus that causes West Nile fever was especially virulent in August 2020 in Andalusia, where a major epidemiological outbreak took place in the Guadalquivir marshes, with more than 60 people affected and five deaths. Until now, in Spain the virus had been circulating continuously among birds since 2003 and only isolated cases had been detected in humans and horses

New invasive species

The Japan mosquito (Aedes japonicus) is one of the new species included in the app. The species, native to Asia, was detected in Spain in 2018 by a Mosquito Alert participant from Asturias. Since then, the application has detected its presence in Cantabria as well. It was necessary to include the species in order to study its expansion through the north of the peninsula, as Mosquito Alert has already been doing with the tiger mosquito since 2015, and to respond to European needs, since the Aedes japonicus mosquito, adapted to more climates colder than the tiger mosquito, it is currently spreading through central Europe. Another species included in the app is the Korean mosquito (Aedes koreicus), very similar to Aedes japonicus, and which has already been observed in five European countries, although its presence has not yet been detected in Spain. 

“We are incorporating new species to respond to the new reality. In recent years we are identifying how new invasive mosquitoes are arriving in Spain and Europe and diseases such as dengue, West Nile fever or the Usutu virus are increasing on the continent” says the other co-director of Mosquito Alert, Frederic Bartumeus, ICREA researcher at CREAF and CEAB-CSIC.

The common mosquito, a danger in Europe

The common mosquito (Culex pipiens), which is not an invasive species but a native one, has also been incorporated into the application, but which has a relevant epidemiological impact in Europe. Therefore, it is important to be able to monitor their populations, as is done with the tiger mosquito. The common mosquito can transmit the West Nile fever virus and Usutu, two viruses originating in Africa that in recent decades have circulated in Europe. In recent years, hundreds of indigenous cases of West Nile fever have been counted in Europe, with a peak in 2018 reaching 2,083 human cases.

“Right now these are the most worrying species in Europe and having an integrated monitoring system with all of them can be key to seeing progress and managing their populations in time”, observes Frederic Bartumeus, who is also leading the implementation of strategies for citizen science for the surveillance of disease-transmitting mosquitoes in Europe in the framework of two European projects: AIM-COST Action y Versatile Emerging Infectious Diseases Observatory (VEO).

The new Mosquito Alert app, translated into more than 17 European languages, will allow citizens from all over Europe to participate in the surveillance and monitoring of these species, and replicate the Spanish experience in the rest of the continent.

Coordination between epidemiologists, public health professionals, entomologists and microbiologists: key for minimizing the risk of Zika transmission in Barcelona

  • The Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB) has published a sociodemographic, epidemiological, clinical study which also recounts mosquito control efforts carried out following detections of Zika in the city since 2016.
  • To date, no cases of Zika transmission have been documented in Barcelona, but this does not mean that the risk does not exist. With this in mind, the ASPB has made improvements to the response protocol to further reduce any risk of transmission.
Mosquit tigre. Foto: Pixabay CC0 PD

Tiger mosquito. Photo: Pixabay CCO PD

 

Since the first detection of Zika in Spain in December 2015, the Barcelona Public Health Agency has included vigilance for this virus in its Tiger Mosquito Control and Monitoring Program, and carries out comprehensive studies of each detected case. As explained in the study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, monitoring for the disease and the insect that transmits it are essential for preventing the local transmission of arboviruses – the group of viruses transmitted by arthropods – helping to avoid dire impacts on public health. This is made possible by good coordination among epidemiologists, clinicians, entomologists and microbiologists.

In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika as an emerging disease threatening public health worldwide as a result of its rapid expansion and associated illnesses which include Guillain-Barré syndrome and microcephaly in newborn babies. In fact, Spain is one of the European countries with the highest risk of local transmission of Zika; in a city like Barcelona, ​​where the tiger mosquito is established and there are large fluxes of human migration, tourism and global trade, the risk continues to increase.

More travelers from Zika-affected countries

Since 2000, the number of people of Latin American origin residing in Spain has increased considerably. Countries including the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Colombia are those most visited by travelers originating in Barcelona, whatever the motives for the visit (to visit family, work, for tourism), and these are precisely the places where the Zika virus is endemic. With this significant movement of humans, it is only more likely that the disease will be imported.

In Spain, all cases of Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue infections are reported to the public health authorities and to the main epidemiology units. In 2016, there were 118 cases of Zika in Barcelona, ​​all of which were due to infections which occurred outside of Spain. Zika cases are classified as probable, confirmed, imported or local depending on the patient’s symptoms in addition to other clinical and socio-demographic data (age, sex, country of origin, etc.).

Esquema dels passos protocolaris que es segueixen quan es detecten casos importats de Zika. Font: ASPB

Scheme of the protocolary steps followed when imported Zika cases are detected. Source: ASPB

 

The most effective measure to avoid local transmission of Zika is to control the vector

Zika is a virus that is transmitted between infected and healthy people through the bite of the yellow fever mosquito – currently not present in Spain – or the tiger mosquito. The Mediterranean is vulnerable to local transmission since the tiger mosquito is present or established in many areas. It is therefore essential to set up surveillance and prevention protocols to avoid local transmission, using individual and community prevention measures to prevent mosquito breeding and biting. In fact, the published study shows that the periods of year with the most mosquitos – April, August and September – coincide with number of imported Zika cases and therefore a greater risk of local transmission.

In the case of an infection, the city’s epidemiology service instructs the patient on the use of preventive measures to reduce additional infections. The goal is to minimize the risk of Zika transmission through mosquito bites in the area where the infected person lives. At the same time, inspections are carried out to detect if there are mosquitoes or mosquito breeding sites either in the infected person’s home or in the surrounding neighborhood. In most cases, insecticidal treatments are applied in areas with standing water in order to kill any larvae.

Mapa de la ciudad de Barcelona con la localización de los diferentes casos de arboviosis y los resultados de las inspecciones entomológicas. "Risk zonas" (azul): inspecciones mensuales. "Citizen incidencia" (verde): avisos hechos por la ciudadanía que se han hecho durante el estudio de 2016.

Map of the city of Barcelona, with the location of different cases of arbovirosis and entomology inspeccions. “Risk zones” (blue): monthly inspections. “Citizen incidences” (green): reports made by citizen during 2016.

 

In relation to such preventive measures, new technologies have sweep areas for tiger mosquito presence. Specifically, citizen participation with the Mosquito Alert app has led to the detection of breeding sites close to the homes of infected persons, and this technology has facilitated vector surveillance and control in the city. During 2016, the Barcelona Public Health Agency made entomological inspections at 19 homes of people infected by Zika, 34 public spaces, and carried out 134 follow-up and control tasks associated with cases of imported Zika.

In short, the Barcelona Arbovirus Surveillance Program is an example of how reducing the risk transmission arboviruses such as Zika should be tackled in a multidisciplinary manner. The study was carried out by the principal Spanish public health entities as well the Public Health Agency of Barcelona, ​​CIBER Epidemiology and Public Health, Lokímica Laboratories, Doñana Biological Station, The Microbiology Department of Vall de Hebron Hospital, Hospital Clínico of Barcelona, ​​ISGlobal, and the Mosquito Alert community as part of the Barcelona Zika Working Group.

Renferenced article:

Millet, J. P., Montalvo, T., Bueno, R., Romero-Tamarit, A., Prats-Uribe, A., Fernandez, L., … & Zika Working Group in Barcelona (2017). Imported Zika Virus in a European city: how to prevent local transmission?. Frontiers in Microbiology, 8, 1319.

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmicb.2017.01319/full

A new platform for managing the tiger mosquito with citizen involvement

  • Dipsalut (the Public Heath entity for the region of Girona, Spain) and the Mosquito Alert Project – coordinated by CREAF, CEAB-CSIC and ICREA and supported by Obra Social “La Caixa” – unveil a new platform which will improve management of the tiger mosquito in Spain.
  • The new tool consists of a map which allows the combination of region-specific information with scientific and technical data, as well as citizen reports on tiger mosquito sightings and breeding sites in urban areas.
  • With this portal, the Mosquito Alert project continues with its work to integrate the efforts of citizens with those of public officers responsible for the environment and public health.

Edurard Marquès (Servei de Control de Mosquits de la Badia de Roses i del Baix Ter), Josep Maria Corominas (President of Dipsalut), Xavier del Acebo (head of the Health Area of Dispsalut) and Frederic Bartumeus (Mosquito Alert).

 

Officers of public administrations responsible for monitoring and controlling the tiger mosquito will now be able to utilize information provided by citizens on the whereabouts of tiger mosquitos and their breeding sites – information which is transmitted using the Mosquito Alert app. With this new technology, improvements are foreseen for managing the tiger mosquito in urban areas. This is an important step for both Dipsalut and Mosquito Alert, a project supported by Obra Social “la Caixa”, charged with the urgent problem of managing the tiger mosquito in Spain with the aid of citizens.

The Tiger Mosquito Vigilance and Control Program in Girona, which began in the year 2008 as a collaboration between Dipsalut and the Mosquito Control Service of Roses Bay and the Lower Ter, has contributed a great amount of experience and data – all of which served as a source of inspiration to begin the Mosquito Alert project. Beginning in 2015, the Mosquito Alert app has been used as a tool in this program serving urban areas throughout Girona.

According to the Head of the Area of Health Protection of Dipsalut, Xavier de Acebo, one of the most powerful functions of this platform is the ability to add and edit environmental information of relevance to the tiger mosquito, such as maps of water drains and sewage systems, records of pest control treatments, and visualization of risk areas. Such information can be combined with citizen alerts made using the Mosquito Alert app. “We can see, for instance, if citizen-made tiger mosquito alerts coincide with water drains with stagnant water on street level, or if the number of tiger mosquito observations decrease after pest control treatments,” says Xavier del Acebo.

The private portal allows to combine territorial information with Mosquito Alert data.

 

The portal will allow greater efficiency in the management of tiger mosquito populations on the regional scale. This spring, the system will be tested in pilot trials in urban areas of the province of Girona as well as in the cities of Barcelona and Valencia. “We want public administrations, including the local governments of both large and small cities, to encourage use of the [Mosquito Alert] app so that they can use this portal as an additional tool incorporating citizen data on the tiger mosquito, and to use this information in their vigilance and control programs,” says Frederic Bartumeus, ICREA, CREAF and CEAB-CSIC researcher and Director of Mosquito Alert. In the future, this tool could also lead to the creation of regional models capable of predicting the distribution of this disease-transmitting mosquito.

The development of this new management portal was made possible thanks to the Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing Service of the University of Girona (SIGTE-UdG) as part of the collaboration agreement between Mosquito Alert and Dipsalut.

Press conference with Dipsalut.

 

Greater communication with citizens

It is also hoped that the creation of this new portal will improve communication and transparency between public administrations and citizens and maintain the public informed and engaged. “For these kinds of problems related to the environment and public health it is crucial to keep the public informed about the activities that are being carried out [by public administrations]” says Frederic Bartumeus. For example, via the app, officers will be able to send notifications to specific persons or those within a given region, informing the public about treatments or other actions that are being carried out to control the tiger mosquito. This system for communication can also be used to get in touch with citizens to ask them for more information when necessary. “We may find ourselves in a situation where sightings of the tiger mosquito occur in a new area and in that case we may need more information,” says Bartumeus.

Apart from these special functions for public administrations, as always the Mosquito Alert map of citizen alerts can be visualized and shared by anyone through the web site, www.mosquitoalert.com.

Ibiza includes the Mosquito Alert app in its campaign to control the tiger mosquito

The five city governments of the island of Ibiza and the regional Ibiza Council government have unveiled a response plan for combatting the proliferation of the tiger mosquito. The project is financed by the five municipalities of the island, coordinated by the Council and carried out by the public agency TRAGSA, and will be carried out between August and November 2016.

Eivissa

The tiger mosquito arrived at the isl mosquito tigre llegó a la isla de Eivissa en 2014.

This response plan against the tiger mosquito includes the installation of a network of 100-150 traps for capturing deposited eggs as well as adult mosquitos. Depending on the number of reports received and results of monitoring, the number of traps could be increased to 200.

In public spaces where breeding sites are detected, treatments of insecticides targeting mosquito larvae will be applied. In specific cases in which there is a high presence of tiger mosquito in residential or vulnerable areas – including daycares, schools, retirement homes, or hospitals – treatments to reduce the mosquito’s population will also be considered.

“The objective is to significantly reduce the presence of the mosquito in order to eliminate the nuisance that it is causing among citizens,” explains Ibiza Council biologist Jaume Estarellas, who said that 80 traps have already been installed on the island.

 

Use of the app will aid the campaign

For private property, neighborhood residents and will be counseled on the measures they can take themselves. An awareness and dissemination campaign will be made through social media, local and public media outlets, and technical training meetings will also be organized with neighborhood associations. As stated by the Ibiza Council’s Minister of Environment, Miquel Vericad, “Citizen collaboration is crucial.” “Institutions can take action in the public space, but it is very important that each citizen, within the bounds of their private property, do as much as possible to avoid the creation of tiger mosquito breeding sites.”

To aid the campaign, it is recommended that the general public use the Mosquito Alert app since this will help detect breeding hot spots and individual adult mosquitos. Telephone numbers to request technical assistance have also been set up at Tragsa (629319361 and 618.650.436) and at the Ibiza Council Department of Environment (971.195.500).

3 steps to start with Mosquito Alert

With the Mosquito Alert app you can send observations of tiger mosquitoes or yellow fever mosquitoes, including GPS location and the photographs. You can also do this if you see public places with mosquito larvae, especially storm drain, or other public places which could be possible breeding sites of these two species. This information is useful for scientists to study how these mosquitoes are distributed geographically. In addition, governments and environmental and public health managers can make use of the data and learn where there are problems in order to act.

1) Find tiger mosquitos or yellow fever mosquitos

They are small and dark with white stripes. The tiger mosquito has 1 single white stripe on the head and yellow fever has several white stripes in the form of a lyre. We will help you to identify them!

Credits: J. Luis Ordóñez CC BY NC 2.0

2) Discover breeding sites

They hide in containers or small spaces with stagnant water. We seek reports of breeding sites in public places, especially storm drainsRead more details here.

3) Send your observations

Photographing mosquitoes: to catch a mosquito, try to trap it in a pot or cup. Then, if you can, hold it by the legs, zoom in and try to make the stripes of the head and chest visible. You can also add pictures from other angles.

Reporting breeding sites: add a picture of the breeding site itself and one of the general area. Also, if you can, add another photo showing water or larvae inside the breeding site if this can be seen.

Discover other tips!

We are expanding our objectives after a highly successful 2015

Two years after its birth, the project has proven to be an effective tool for studying and controlling the spread of the tiger mosquito in Spain, as well other tools developed and actions taken. Good results have permitted expansion of project goals, and beginning in March 2016, thanks to support from Obra Social “la Caixa”, we have proposed to provide early detection of the arrival of the yellow fever mosquito.

Informe Anual Mosquito Alert 2015

Mosquito Alert Annual Repport 2015

Since 2014, more than 16,000 people have downloaded the Mosquito Alert mobile device application and provided more than 5,700 observations of possible tiger mosquitos and 770 breeding site notifications. 40% of the observations received in 2015 were considered by experts as possible or confirmed tiger mosquitos by means of analysis of photos accompanying the observation reports: this means that citizens carry out well-documented observations and that they know how to identify the species.

Thanks to agreements with key Spanish public health organizations and agencies, Mosquito Alert data were in some cases used for direct management of this disease vector. We have established collaborative partnerships with the Public Health Agency of Barcelona and the City of Valencia. In Barcelona in 2015, 280 notifications of adult tiger mosquitos and breeding sites were received. Of these, 20% were considered useful for the PHAB and led to some type of action within the monitoring and control program for the species. In Valencia, by way of the Sanitation and Health Agency and in collaboration with the Lokímica company, reports sent with Mosquito Alert were included in the 2015 tiger mosquito vigilance and control campaign. 40% of the new sites of tiger mosquito activity within the city limits were detected and dealt with thanks to Mosquito Alert.

You have helped us detect tiger mosquitos in new places

According to the latest citizen data, the tiger mosquito is found in more than 360 Spanish cities, and Catalonia is the Autonomous Community with the most affected cities. Thanks to citizen collaboration, the mosquito’s extended presence along the coastlines has been confirmed (including Catalonia, Valencia, and Murcia). We also know that the mosquito has advanced northeastward, including the island of Majorca, and that it is propagating from the eastern and southern parts of the country towards the interior. Also, arrivals of the tiger mosquito to Andalucia, Aragon, and the province of Lleida were confirmed for the first time thanks to citizen notifications. Early detection of the species is hugely important for planning and expansion of control measures.


Do you want to know more?

Download the Annual Report at the Publications side


AtrapaelTigre is now Mosquito Alert: a citizen platform for studying and controlling the mosquitos that transmit global epidemics

This new program updates the project previously known as AtrapaelTigre, and includes the mosquito Aedes aegypti which is responsible for the spread of Zika virus. The updated project will implement an early warning system based on citizen science for the detection of the mosquito’s possible arrival to Spain. Also, monitoring of the presence and spread of the tiger mosquito will be expanded with the objective that the data be incorporated into Spanish systems of public health management and epidemiological research.

Moment de la roda de premsa.

Picture taken at the press conference.

Antoni Comín, Minister of Health of the Generalitat de Cataluña, Jaume Giró, General Director of Fundación Bancaria “La Caixa”, and Frederic Bartumeus, ICREA Research Professor also representing CREAF, today presented the program Mosquito Alert, fruit of an alliance between the institutions. The new project will promote research, monitoring, and control of mosquitos mainly responsible for transmission of dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika. This agreement renews the citizen system for monitoring of the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and will expand it to include the mosquito which transmits yellow fever (Aedes aegypti) which is also responsible for the current spread of Zika. The first effect of this new agreement is that the previous system, known by the name Atrapa el Tigre, will change into the program Mosquito Alert.

One of the project’s aims is that both the alert system for Aedes aegypti and citizen monitoring of domestic and expanding populations of tiger mosquitos play a larger role in public health management systems and epidemiological research.

“We live in a globalized world, and this phenomenon leads to changes which have direct consequences on people’s health. We are increasingly exposed to biological agents responsible for transmissible diseases. This is the case of appearances of diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, or zika,” says Jaume Giró, General Director of Fundación Bancaria ”la Caixa”. Frederic Bartumeus, director of the project, adds: “We are working to involve different actors and public and private institutions in the tiger mosquito problem in Spain, including citizens, epidemiologists, entomologists, and modelers.”

Just like its predecessor, Mosquito Alert will continue carrying out citizen monitoring for the presence and spread of the tiger mosquito.

“We will only be able to manage current risks if we coordinate institutions, science and citizens. The Mosquito Alert program is an example of this,” says Antoni Comín, Minister of Health of the Generalitat de Catalunya. The project also hopes to make great leaps in expanding its number of users in an exponential fashion. In 2015 the mobile application was downloaded 10,000 times and 4,000 possible tiger mosquito locations were reported.

Imagen de la aplicación Mosquito Alert.

Mosquito Alert app.

It is hoped that with the new platform these numbers will increase significantly, creating data for big data, and capable of leading to models which may predict, for instance, the distribution of the mosquito or the epidemiological risk of transmission of the diseases they carry. Finally, Mosquito Alert aims to support specific control responses and maneuvers, effective in real time, useful for the management of these two mosquito species. In order to do this, data supplied by citizens and mathematical models will be shared with the entities which oversee the situation.

 

Mosquito Alert will be able to detect if the Zika-transmitting mosquito arrives to Spain

Aedes aegypti is closely related to the tiger mosquito (it belongs to the same genera, but is not the same species) and is the main vector of dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika. To date this mosquito has not been detected in Spain. Mosquito Alert offers a mobile application which allows people to report when they believe they have seen one of these mosquitos.

The novelty of the new project is that citizen science will also help detect if the yellow fever mosquito, the transmitter of Zika, arrives to Spain. A new feature of the application is that it will now help users differentiate between these two species of Aedes before sending information. If hundreds of thousands of people collaborate by notifying about mosquitos in their area, it will be possible to monitor the expansion and proliferation of the tiger mosquito as done to date.

The tiger mosquito has expanded throughout Mediterranean coastal areas and is present in more than 360 Spanish cities

The latest data confirm an extended presence of the tiger mosquito along the eastern Spanish coast (coastal provinces of Catalonia, the Community of Valencia, and the region of Murcia) in addition to its advance northeastwards, to the island of Majorca. Generally speaking, the citizen data suggest that the mosquito is propagating from the eastern coast towards Andalusia and the interior regions. In fact, in 2014 and 2015, with the help of validated citizen data, experts including Dr. Bartumeus, and national monitoring networks, the arrival of the species to Andalusia and Aragon was confirmed.

Also, the arrival of the mosquito to the province of Lleida in Catalonia was confirmed. Since 2014, more than 360 Spanish cities have been associated with citizen sightings validated by experts as possible or probable tiger mosquitos. Catalonia is the Autonomous Community with greatest number of cities with tiger mosquito presence (189), followed by the Community of Valencia (115), the Balearic Islands (21), Andalusia (14), the region of Murcia (13), Aragon (5), the Community of Madrid (2), Castilla-La Mancha (1) and La Rioja (1).

Video of press conference organized for the presentation of Mosquito Alert (credit: Obra Social la Caixa)

Acceso a Youtube para Visualizar 
 

Sign up for our newsletter to receive all news about Mosquito Alert

Mosquito Alert coordinators

ICREA
CREAF