U.S. charity deploying fish to front lines of fight against Zika

Operation Blessing is breeding mosquito-eating fish to help fight the outbreak of the Zika virus.


The Zika virus is spreading around the globe, becoming a major health crisis, and now one humanitarian organization is deploying mosquito-eating fish throughout Central America in an effort to stop the epidemic.

The virus has triggered outbreaks in recent months in 41 countries and is transmitted by mosquitos which thrive in pools of standing water. Normally, Zika causes fever and rashes and not much more, but there is a particularly alarming link between the virus and a rare neurological syndrome that can be fatal, Guillain-Barré, as well as an increase of babies born with abnormally small heads.

To combat the mosquitoes, Operation Blessing International, a Christian humanitarian organization based in Virginia, is deploying small gambusia or Sambo fish in cities and villages throughout El Salvador and Mexico. The fish feast on the larva of the Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which carries Zika, dengue and yellow fever.

"It is a very insidious little insect," Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing, told Fox News Latino. "They are domesticated. They don't live in a swamp, in the woods, in a river or in a lake. They live in and around the homes – especially the homes of poor people."

Operation Blessing breeds the fish locally, then places them in buckets, barrels, tubs, wells and water tanks in pools of water in and around homes – slowing the spread of Zika.

The group developed the method of fighting disease by deploying fish into 5,500 temporarily abandoned swimming pools in and around New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Thecity credited Operation Blessing with preventing an potentially huge outbreak of West Nile disease.

On the front line against Zika in El Salvador, Operation Blessing is operating fish farms producing indigenous Sambo fish in large numbers. In Mexico, more than 60 community health workers are distributing 10 to 20 gambusia to every family living in nearby Mexican villages. 

Operation Blessing hired local fisherman to capture 4,000 breeder fish and are farming more and more gambusia.

"They are hungry little fish," Horan said. "They were born to eat mosquito larvae. And they have live babies. They can live in a mud puddle. They don't need much oxygen. They are just the ultimate answer. A non-chemical, natural way to control mosquito larvae."

Operation Blessing is hoping to expand to Guatemala, Honduras and maybe Peru in the coming months.

Bryan Llenas currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). Click here for more information on Bryan Llenas. Follow him on Twitter @BryanLlenas.