JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Directorate of Public Works has been working hard this summer to combat mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus. The Fort McNair portion of the joint base tested positive for one mosquito carrying the virus this summer.
"When we got the hit, I went around and applied more larvicide to make sure we weren't missing anything," said JBM-HH DPW Pest Controller Edward Williams. "We have been getting a lot of rain. We're trying to make sure, with the new water in the system, that we've got it covered, that it's treated."
JBM-HH is one of 12 participating Department of Defense mosquito testing program sites in the greater Washington, D.C., area. JBM-HH DPW pest controllers set out mosquito traps at six sites on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base and three traps on the Fort McNair portion of JBM-HH in May.
Testing for the virus from the trapped mosquitoes is a time-consuming process. It can take up to a month for a sample to reveal a positive or negative result. According to health department officials, the West Nile identification on mosquitoes takes 4 to 6 weeks.
A total of 1,224 female mosquitoes were trapped at collaborating military sites, including Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in the Washington, D.C. area during 69 trap nights in the spring. Those mosquitoes were put into 82 pools and tested for West Nile Virus. Of these, only the pool collected on May 28 at Fort McNair tested positive for the virus.
Pointing to the mosquito trap that was sitting empty July 2 at the McNair Officers Club, Williams credited the use of larvicide and the training the installations technicians have received with keeping the mosquito population down.
"Back when West Nile first showed up, this trap would have been full," he said. "We would have had 200 mosquitoes in there. This [empty trap] is the exact outcome we were looking for."
West Nile is a mosquito-borne virus that first appeared in the United States in 1999, according to the Army Public Health Command. Since then, more than 30,000 people in the United States have contracted the virus, which has caused more than 1,200 deaths nationally. So far this year, there have been no documented human cases of the virus in the District of Columbia region.
"Every summer the West Nile virus is going to be cycling," said Gregory Olmstead, environmental protection specialist with the JBM-HH Directorate of Environmental Management. "There was one mosquito in the pool that tested positive."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 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.
West Nile virus is passed on by mosquitoes that spread the virus by biting other animals and humans, Olmstead explained. You can reduce your risk of contacting the virus by limiting your exposure to mosquitoes and staying inside as much as possible at dawn or dusk when they are most active. When outside, you should wear long sleeves and pants that are snug at the wrists and ankles and use insect repellent containing Environmental Protection Agency approved ingredients. You should also eliminate sources of stagnant water, which serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The West Nile Virus surveillance season lasts until the first freeze. For more information about the virus, call 703-696-3701/8513/1205. To report a mosquito problem, call 703-696-3263/5680.