15 June 2016
Fort Detrick Prepares for Zika Virus
Bob Craig, USAG Environmental Management Division
Unfortunately, Mosquito-borne diseases are not a new problem; with mosquitoes causing more human suffering than any other organism. It estimated that over one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year, and the number of people infected with mosquito-borne diseases (e.g., malaria, bacteria and viruses) is many folds greater. In 1901, Dr. Walter Reed came to national prominence when he determined that Yellow Fever was spread by a mosquito (Aedes aegypti). Nearly a century later, it was the West Nile virus, another mosquito-borne disease that was making the news. This year, concerns about the Zika virus are making headlines, especially now that the Olympics are soon to begin in Brazil. In the Maryland area, the mosquito commonly called the Asia Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), a primarily day-biting species, is the most likely vector for this arbo-virus.

Today, the Zika virus is of grave concern because of a strong likelihood that it may cause severe and life-threatening abnormalities in developing fetuses; a condition called microcephaly. However, for most people infected by Zika, most will have no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. For more on the health effects associated with the Zika virus, please visit the internet resources listed in the side bar.

The Department of Defense is taking a proactive approach to prepare for a possible outbreak later this year. At Fort Detrick, which includes the Forest Glen Annex and the Glen Haven Housing area, a multi-disciplinary team of pest control, environmental and public health professionals has been established to protect Soldiers, families, retirees and visitors, as well as the civilian and contract work force.

Within the next month, Preventive Medicine technicians will begin to trap adult mosquitoes and to collect mosquito eggs in special oviposition cups. The purpose of field collecting mosquito eggs in the oviposition cups is to rear the eggs to the adult stage under controlled laboratory conditions for adult mosquito identification. The mosquito traps will be installed at Area A, Area B, Area C, the Glen Haven housing area and at the Forest Glen Annex. The wild-caught mosquitoes will be grouped and sorted by species and tested for the presence or absence of the Zika virus.

Three basic types of mosquito surveillance traps will be used for mosquito surveillance: a BG-Sentinel trap, a mosquito oviposition cup and a mosquito gravid trap. If you see any of these traps, please do not touch them. PM technicians will be visiting the traps weekly to collect mosquitoes and eggs for testing.

The Zika virus is primarily transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Other, less common, ways Zika is spread is through sexual transmission, from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy and possibly blood transfusions.

It is important for everyone to protect themselves from the bites of mosquitos. If possible, avoid areas where mosquitos are present, and always apply insect repellent, or wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. For more information on how to prevent mosquito bites, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/features/stopmosquitoes/.

Spreading Zika through sex can be prevented by using simple precautions, such as using condoms and abstaining from sex if there is a possibility that you or your partner may have contracted the virus.

Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should avoid travel to Zika-affected areas, or talk to their healthcare provider before travelling if travel cannot be postponed.

Just as important, mosquito populations need to be kept in check. Female mosquitos need standing water in order to lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae live in standing water for several days before they emerge in their flying and biting form (adult female). It should be noted that only the female mosquito bites and it may bite numerous individuals during its life span of a few weeks. Normally, she will lay a single egg batch following each feeding on blood.

On the different properties operated by the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Detrick, storm water management ponds are probably the largest single opportunity for female mosquitos to lay their eggs. The USAG’s Directorate of Public Works prevents mosquitos by stocking the larger ponds with fish, to include one species in particular named “Gambusia,” or “mosquito fish”. The smaller ponds that are too small to support fish are treated using chemical “briquettes.” However, mosquitoes do not need a pond in order to lay their eggs; any small body of water will do. A clogged roof gutter could serve as an ideal habitat; as could a discarded soda bottle or soda can that is partially filled with water, or a discarded tire. Any standing water, no matter how small, can serve as a mosquito breeding habitat.

The USAG Fort Detrick DPW has already begun to move forward proactively in identifying and eliminating standing water situations, or treating them, as appropriate. The community can help as well by picking up outside items that can capture rain water and storing them in a dry location, or discarding them, as appropriate.

On-post residents should report standing water issues to their Balfour Beatty housing coordinator, either at Glen Haven or at Area A. The DPW also operates a “Trouble Desk” for offices and facilities outside of the housing areas. Please call (301) 619-2726 to report any and all mosquito populations, standing water locations or window screens that need to be repaired or replaced.
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