Our community volunteer, John

May 10th, 2018

John Harrison is a Wangan resident who doesn’t like dengue, and Debug Innisfail is lucky to have him involved on the community Project Advisory Group (PAG).

His past experience of contracting a mosquito-borne disease, along with his determination to protect his grandchildren from such a debilitating condition, has driven him to be involved with the project, to work on reducing the threat of dengue and Zika in his local area.

“I was suspicious of having contracted the virus back in the 80’s. I recall suffering severe headaches and body aches,” said John.

He has fully recovered now, but the experience has made him very cautious of mosquito-borne diseases. Mr Harrison has been volunteering with Debug Innisfail since September last year to reduce the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which are a vector for dengue, Zika and chikungunya.

“I’m one of the community representatives involved in the Debug Innisfail Project Advisory Group,” said John.

The group acts as a conduit between the project staff and the community.

“I attend monthly meetings where we receive updates from Dr Nigel Beebe, the project’s lead scientist, so we are well informed of what’s going on. We are also encouraged to communicate to the project staff, any feedback from people in the community that we hear from,” he said.

The PAG is made up of community representatives from a range of perspectives including industry, commerce, traditional owners, environment, local government and residents.

Learning more than the science

“There are many things we are learning from our study here,” said the project’s lead scientist Dr Nigel Beebe.

“Along with the science, and the effectiveness of the technologies being used to rear-up, sort and release the non-biting sterile male mozzies, community engagement is an important aspect which we are watching closely,” he said.

Should this project show positive results, the team hope for it to be adapted and taken to communities elsewhere in other parts of the globe.

“Community support is very important to the success of the project,” said Nigel.

“Our approach here, where we have direct regular contact with members of the Project Advisory Group, will guide and inform how we enter communities when introducing potential future projects elsewhere.”

“We are very encouraged by the broader community’s response so far,” he said.

John with a BG mosquito trap at his home.

Traps and chats

John has a mosquito trap at his home, which is one of the network of traps set up by the project around the study sites. Wangan is one of the control (no treatment but monitor only) sites (along with Belvedere and South Innisfail) which provides important baseline data for the scientists to compare and measure the effects of the releases in the treatment sites.

“It’s interesting to see what’s being caught in the trap. I enjoy having a chat to the field staff who come and check it each week,” he said.

Contact us if you want to know more about the project and the PAG.