An Assessment of Household and Individual-Level Mosquito Prevention Methods during the Chikungunya Virus Outbreak in the United States Virgin Islands, 2014–2015

Leora R. Feldstein, Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, J. Erin Staples, M. Elizabeth Halloran, Esther M. Ellis

American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

February 5, 2018


Recent large-scale chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and Zika virus epidemics in the Americas pose a growing public health threat. Given that mosquito bite prevention and vector control are the main prevention methods available to reduce transmission of these viruses, we assessed adherence to these methods in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). We interviewed 334 USVI residents between December 2014 and February 2015 to measure differences in mosquito prevention practices by gender, income, presence of CHIKV symptoms, and age. Only 27% (91/334) of participants reported having an air conditioner, and of the 91 with air-conditioners, 18 (20%) reported never using it. Annual household income > $50,000 was associated with owning and using an air conditioner (41%; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 28–53% compared with annual household income ≤ $50,000: 17%; 95% CI: 12–22%). The majority of participants reported the presence of vegetation in their yard or near their home (79%; 265) and a cistern on their property (78%; 259). Only 52 (16%) participants reported wearing mosquito repellent more than once per week. Although the majority (80%; 268) of participants reported having screens on all of their windows and doors, most (82%; 273) of those interviewed still reported seeing mosquitoes in their homes. Given the uniformly low adherence to household- and individual-level mosquito bite prevention measures in the USVI, these findings emphasize the need for improved public health messaging and investment in therapeutic and vaccine research to mitigate vector-borne disease outbreaks.