COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime health officials are working with Army entomologists to collect mosquito samples on its installation in Columbus, Ohio, to test for the Zika virus.
Although there have been no reported cases of Zika virus transmission through mosquito bites in the continental United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the virus will continue to spread worldwide. And a Department of Defense memorandum calls for mosquito surveillance, testing and control at DoD installations.
So DLA Land and Maritime partnered with the Army Public Health Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland to monitor its mosquitoes.
Brad Sparks, a pest controller at DLA Land and Maritime, normally spends his days keeping rodents and bugs away from work areas. But this summer, he’s on mosquito patrol.
“I’ll be placing traps around the installation including plastics cups to collect eggs and also larger, BG-Sentinel traps to gather adult specimens,” Sparks said. “Each week I’ll collect the samples and send them to a test facility to determine what species of mosquito are present on the installation, as well as if any of them test positive for the Zika virus.”
Sparks said the egg traps are simply black plastic cups filled with water and a thin strip of damp wood. He says the mosquitoes are attracted to the dark colored cups and prefer to lay their eggs on the piece of wood rather than directly in the water.
For catching live samples, Sparks and his team use a large, collapsible fabric trap filled with a non-toxic pheromone that attracts adult mosquitoes. The insects are trapped inside a container in the trap and can later be frozen before being sent off for examination.
DLA Installation Support will place the cups and fabric traps in areas with heavy foot traffic, such as the golf course, outdoor pavilions and operational office buildings.
Zia Mehr, an entomologist with the APHC, was on site working with Sparks and the rest of the mosquito surveillance team. He emphasized that although there have been no reported cases of Zika-carrying mosquitoes in Ohio, DLA is taking the right steps by implementing its collection and testing initiative so soon.
“Through this mosquito surveillance campaign and Land and Maritime’s close working relationship with the city of Columbus health department, the testing will have a positive impact on both the installation and the surrounding community.” Mehr said. “If Zika does appear in mosquitoes in central Ohio, the support personnel at Defense Supply Center Columbus will already have procedures in place to respond appropriately.”
Mehr says mosquitoes specific to Ohio are not the same species that carry Zika. The carrier species include the yellow-fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes.
The Zika virus was first detected in South America and has since turned up in dozens of U.S. states, although all the U.S. cases originated outside the country or through sexual contact. Zika can cause symptoms similar to a mild fever and is seldom fatal, but the biggest threat from the virus comes from the chance of birth defects, including microcephaly.
In March, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, then-assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, issued a memorandum calling for a DoD-wide strategy of surveillance, testing and control of mosquitoes capable of transmitting the Zika virus.
The monitoring guidance affects all military installations within the known distribution ranges of certain species of mosquito suspected to be potential carriers of the virus. Central Ohio may contain some of those species.
In April, DoD authorized an additional $1.76 million to military testing facilities, to expand Zika virus surveillance worldwide and determine the threat posed to service members in the U.S. and overseas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for personal protection against mosquitoes in areas with high concentrations:
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Staying in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Taking steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home.
- Sleeping under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and unable to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon, eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol.
When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
For more information on the Zika virus and for additional prevention suggestions, visit the CDC’s website, at www.cdc.gov/zika or the APHC page, at https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/discond/diseases/Pages/Zika.aspx.