Dr. Petrie Appointed Mosquito Control Chief of Miami-Dade

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Dr. Bill Petrie, director of the Mosquito Control and Research Unit (MRCU), is leaving his post to become the head of Miami-Dade Mosquito Control Division in Florida.

He will be responsible for mosquito control in Miami-Dade County, with a particular focus on the prevention of mosquito-borne diseases.

Dr. Bill Petrie

The area suffered a significant outbreak of the Zika virus last year, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, prompting a public health emergency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel warning, advising pregnant women not to visit the area during the outbreak.

Dr. Petrie has worked at MRCU for more than 30 years, having joined the facility in 1984 as a research assistant after graduating in biology and zoology from the University of Dundee, Scotland. He was awarded his doctorate by the university in 1996 for his research into the reproductive biology of the Cayman Islands’ swamp mosquito.

Dr. Petrie went on to become deputy director of MRCU and in 1998 was promoted to his current position of director. He has continued the legacy of research and control established by MRCU founder Dr. Marco Giglioli, who opened the facility in 1965. Prior to that, the mosquito problem was so intense that Cayman islanders had to use “smoke pots” - cans filled with smouldering bark - to ward off the insects, which had been known to smother cattle overnight.

Dr. Giglioli’s visionary work and leadership, which was later continued by Dr. Petrie, saw MRCU rise to be a leader in mosquito research and control regionally and internationally.

The success of the mosquito control techniques allowed the Cayman Islands economy, including tourism and the financial sector, to flourish, with many countries regularly seeking advice on ways to emulate MRCU’s achievements.

MRCU is currently one of the regional leaders in the fight against Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, an invasive species in the Cayman Islands that is becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides.

The facility has partnered with U.K.-based biotech firm Oxitec to implement the pioneering Friendly Aedes aegypti Programme, which uses genetically modified male mosquitoes to control the Aedes aegypti population.

“Dr. Petrie will be a huge loss to us as he has contributed so much not only to mosquito research and control here in the Cayman Islands, but is highly regarded and respected around the globe for his work,” said Deputy Governor Franz Manderson. “I thank him for all that he has done as a civil servant and as an ambassador for our country.”

Minister for Health, Environment, Culture and Housing, Hon. Dwayne Seymour commended Dr. Petrie for his accomplishments at MRCU.

“I have great respect for the work carried out by Dr. Petrie and his team as they play an integral role in our lives every day by ensuring that mosquitoes are kept under control,” he said.

The Ministry’s Chief Officer, Jennifer Ahearn, also lauded Dr. Petrie’s contributions.

“It has been a great pleasure to work with Dr. Petrie,” she said. “His work at MRCU is of local and international importance. We wish him every success in his new role in Miami.”

Dr. Petrie’s last day at MRCU will be Friday, 4 August and he takes up his position in Miami-Dade on Monday, 14 August.

“I’ve spent many enjoyable years of my life here, especially working with the great team at MRCU, but I’m looking forward to the challenges of mosquito control in Miami,” he said. “It has been a great privilege to continue the ground-breaking work started by Dr. Giglioli.”

Deputy Chief Officer of the Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing Nancy Barnard will be acting director of MRCU until Dr. Petrie’s successor is appointed.