West Nile Virus
A mosquito clings to the wall of an incubation jar; it was collected as part of the mosquito surveillance program at Fort Bliss, Texas, to prevent the spread of West Nile virus, Oct. 10. The insects are shipped to U.S. Army Public Health Command Region - North to test for transmittable diseases.

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - They may be among the tiniest enemy the Army wages war against, but don't let their size fool you.

Being bitten by a mosquito, especially one infected by the West Nile virus, can lead to devastating health consequences.

With that in mind, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is again participating in the United States Army Public Health Command's [USAPHC] mosquito testing program, said Gregory Olmstead, environmental protection specialist with the JBM-HH Directorate of Environmental Management.

Olmstead said three Department of Public Works pest controllers have already begun investigating and identifying possible mosquito breeding areas on the installation.

"In early May, they will set out mosquito traps and collect mosquitoes for West Nile Virus testing," he said.

West Nile is a mosquito-borne virus that was first seen in the United States in 1999, according to the USAPHC. Since then, more than 30,000 people in the United States have contracted the virus, which has caused more than 1,200 deaths nationally.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, West Nile has established itself as a seasonal epidemic that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. About one in 150 people who are infected by the virus experience serious symptoms, which can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, vision loss, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, numbness and paralysis.

In 2012, there were 83 confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, according to Olmstead, who said eight people died due to complications from West Nile.

"In at least 50 of those cases, people had severe illnesses such as meningitis or brain infections," he said. "Fortunately, no local military members from our installation or from the other military facilities in the D.C. metro area were ill. However, Texas was particularly hard hit last year, and military members there became ill and there were fatalities."

One-third of the human cases of West Nile Virus were documented or reported in Texas in 2012, Olmstead continued. He said the easiest and best way to avoid the virus is to prevent mosquito bites.

"Protect yourself from mosquito bites," urged Olmstead. "Use an insect repellent that contains DEET or picaridin, especially at dusk or early evening when the mosquitoes are most aggressive."

DPW pest controller Ron Purvis said those who live and work on the installation can help keep the mosquito population down and thereby lower the chances of West Nile Virus exposure by eliminating sources of standing water, and keeping storm drains and gutters clean.

"If there's water standing around, there's a good chance mosquitoes are breeding," he explained. Purvis also said that mosquitoes are attracted to white outdoor lights.

"Change your white lights to yellow lights," he urged.

For more information on West Nile Virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov or the United States Army Public Health Command's website at www.phc.amedd.army.mil.

Page last updated Fri May 3rd, 2013 at 11:04