Understanding the Law
September 5, 2014
The mosquito scourge

Far too many persons are succumbing to the chikungunya disease that causes fever and severe joint pain.

The disease was reported by the World Health Organization to be in St Martin as of December 2013, now it appears to be all over the Caribbean. Five months ago, it was in Bequia now it is spreading like wildfire to many areas in SVG.{{more}} The plain truth is that we have conditions that are conducive to the survival of the aedes aegypti mosquitoes that are transmitting the chikungunya virus. I wrote sometime ago about the nuisance that we encourage with the dark bushy areas where insects could hide and the stagnant water that provides breeding ground. We have to protect ourselves from this dangerous virus. This is when we are our brothers’ keepers. Keep off the mosquitoes from your person with a repellent and destroy the conditions that are conducive to the breeding and continued existence of mosquitoes. More importantly, listen to information from your public health authorities.

Breeding grounds

If you discard receptacles that can collect rainwater on your property, mosquitoes would breed in them. Then there are the items such as old vehicles, tyres, old refrigerators and stoves that are left by the wayside or behind your house. Mosquitoes can also breed in standing water, especially in vases in your homes and at the edges of streams where the water is still. After eggs are hatched, mosquitoes can then find a place to hide away in bushy areas, poorly covered sewerage, your wardrobes, cupboards, dark clothes and dark rooms in your home if you would let them hide.

You have to join in the effort to eradicate these unwelcome guests. Wage a war on them because they are your enemies. Let not one single mosquito find refuge in your house. It is said that mosquitoes do not go very far from their breeding ground, so you have to take another look at your surroundings and call on your friends and neighbours to do the same to achieve a mosquito-free environment. Now that schools have reopened, the problem will be multiplied because the aedes aegypti mosquitoes bite during the day. We need to take a careful look at conditions on the schools’ compounds.

The Litter Act

There are two pieces of legislation under which legal action could be taken against you when you contribute to unhealthy conditions. These are the Litter Act No.15 of 1991 and the Public Health Act No. 9 of 1977. A person could be prosecuted under the Litter Act if he or she throws, drops or otherwise deposits litter on a public place or private place (without the consent of the owner). Any one who commits an offence and is found guilty on summary conviction by a magistrate would have to pay a fine not exceeding $5,000 or serve a prison sentence not exceeding six months or both. A sum of $200 per day could be charged for every day the litter is not removed.

Public Health Act

The Public Health refers to “statutory nuisance” and “communicable diseases.” Mosquito borne diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and dengue are listed as communicable diseases. The first two named diseases, have during the early days of colonisation, decimated the population in the Caribbean and the last named above continues to pose serious illnesses. Section 113 lists all the breeding places of mosquitoes that constitute nuisance. If you encourage nuisance that can attract mosquitoes you could be prosecuted under this Act. Join the fight against mosquitoes, in particular, the aedes aegypti, carrier of the chikungunya disease and dengue. Let us all make the joint effort.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

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