In what has to be one of the strangest public health strategies to date, health officials in the Punjab districts of Pakistan have released over a million Tilapia into pools, ponds, large puddles – just about any body of standing water – in an effort to combat dengue. Pakistan has a long rainy season which creates thousands of pools of water where the mosquitoes who carry dengue lay their eggs. By releasing the fish into these pools, the larvae are eaten before they can hatch, killing the virus’ vector and preventing its spread.
While it may be tempting to dismiss the strategy as a bizarre version of the woman-who-swallowed-the-fly nursery rhyme, don’t – apparently, it’s working. In 2011, the Punjab districts had over 20,000 cases of dengue, including 300 fatalities. So far this year, following the release of over 1.6 million fish, there have been just 100 cases total. The question of what happens to the fish when the pools evaporate has not yet been addressed, but we’re still impressed – can you imagine having to pitch this idea to your superiors?
Read more about this very innovative use of fish at the Guardian.
(Image: Tilapia farmer in Pakistan, courtesy of USDA/Flickr)