FORT LEE, Va. (July 24, 2014) -- It's that time of year again. The birds are chirping and the sun is shining, but people should not let these pleasant distractions keep them from being safe.

There are major environmental threats at work during this season -- heat injury, food-borne illness and vector-borne disease. Fortunately, with a little education and planning these hazards can be mitigated with minimal impact on summertime fun.

Heat injury is the most lethal of all the factors working against military personnel. In the 1967 Egyptian-Israeli Conflict, 20,000 Egyptians died from heat after the Israelis severed the Egyptian's water supply lines. No one has severed Fort Lee's water supply lines, so we are a little short on excuses for allowing any heat injuries.

The three stages of heat injury are heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat cramp symptoms are painful muscle cramps in the arms, legs and abdomen; excessive sweating, moist skin and extreme thirst. By the time a body has reached heat stroke, it no longer sweats and the skin is red, hot and dry. Remember that dehydration can worsen heat injuries, but people can still suffer a heat injury even if they are well-hydrated. The most effective tool to combat heat injury, especially in a training environment such as Fort Lee, is work-rest cycles. Based on which heat category (I-V), between 10-40 minutes of rest may be needed per hour. If people notice any of the early signs of a heat injury, they need to speak up, seek shade and slowly sip some cool water immediately.

Food-borne illness might as well be synonymous with barbecues. It is hard to keep food refrigerated when it is sitting on a picnic table baking in the sun. If you follow these easy guidelines, cookouts can be enjoyed with no gastrointestinal regrets. First and foremost, contact Environmental Health at (804) 734-9652 for unit cookouts. Not only is it required, the office has a wealth of knowledge and can advise and recommend ways to a happy cookout.

Make sure to notify EH of the menu prior to shopping. Some foods are not suitable for outdoor cooking, and all foods must be Army veterinarian approved. The next thing is to ensure all people preparing or serving food receive the one-hour food handler's course. Call EH anytime to schedule a class, or for more details. Lastly, keep food cool in an ice chest, plan for your trash and wash your grubby hands. Coolers, waste receptacles and hand-washing stations are required for any temporary food operation. Depending on the menu, more requirements may apply.

Vector-borne diseases vary in severity and symptoms, but they can make individuals extremely ill and even cause death in some cases. Mosquitos, ticks and sand flies (also known as vectors), are all a potential delivery mechanism for pathogens to enter a bloodstream. Fortunately for humans, not every bug that bites can transmit the disease. For example, a deer tick cannot transmit Lyme disease to a human unless it's attached for several hours. If you ever find a tick attached, remove it and immediately schedule an appointment with a primary care provider. Also, only certain species carry harmful diseases.

Mosquitos from the Culex genus do not carry malaria; however, they can transmit West Nile Virus and Japanese Encephalitis among others. The most important take-away to remember is to properly wear your uniform and always use personal protective equipment. The DOD Insect Repellant System is simply your uniform (treated with an insecticide named permethrin) worn properly (trousers tucked in boots) along with insect repellant on exposed skin. If everyone follow these same principles off duty they will be the Fort Knox of vector-borne diseases.

There are many health threats to be aware of in the coming months, but fear not for now you know how to reduce all those big scary hazards into little calculated risks. The control measures are far too easy. Follow recommended work-rest cycles, or you may end up like the Egyptians in 1967. Always contact Environmental Health before barbecuing or you will likely get somebody sick. Finally, always use the DOD insect repellant system when training outdoors.

The attached crossword will help strengthen the understanding of the environmental health perspective on the best season of the year. Some of the answers are in this article; others may require more research. For the full puzzle solution, visit the KAHC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/kenner.ftlee.

Page last updated Thu July 24th, 2014 at 00:00