By Rachael Tolliver-IRACH Public Affairs OfficerJune 13, 2016
Ireland Army Community Hospital's Preventive Medicine Services, which includes the Environmental Health Department, started capturing mosquitos for testing in May and will continue to trap them throughout the summer.
Lt. Gildelbrandt Martinez, III, the chief of environmental health for Fort Knox, said the mission of EH is to help identify potential disease outbreaks, such as those in food, water and arthropods, and enact preventative measures so the Fort Knox community and local area can remain a safe place to live and work. And with the spread of the Zika virus in some places in the world, and the onset of summer, Martinez and his staff are on the hunt for mosquitos.
"I am setting up different traps to collect a variety of species of mosquitos--different mosquitos breed in different environments," he explained. "Some only bite at night and some only bite during the day. Aedes aegypti and Ades albopictus mosquitos carry the Zika virus, they are day-biting mosquitos, and are container breeders meaning they will breed in tree trunks, tires, gutter, cups--anything that is container size and holds water."
He said that in May the EHD started a program to weekly track mosquitos. The results can help provide important predictive indicators for the potential transmission of mosquito borne diseases. He explained that the trapping sites selected included areas around neighborhoods and schools located on Fort Knox.
Traps are set twice weekly using CDC light traps and a gravid traps--traps that capture night biting and Culex mosquitos. In the first one a light is used to attract them, and the gravid traps are a container of water with a trap over it to attract them. Once specimens are collected they are identified and shipped to Preventative Health Command.
But the mosquitos that spread Zika, known as the Ades aegypti and the Ades albopictus, are day biting mosquitos and require different tracking methods.
"The OVICUPS with velvet strips inside catch the eggs of the mosquitos that carry Zika," Martinez explained. "Those cups simulate a breeding environment and once they lay their eggs, we come back and collect the strips and send them off for testing. In that way we can tell what the population of that species of mosquito is and then determine the best course of action to eliminate breeding sites for that species."
He added that people can help reduce the habitat in which mosquitos live by turning over unused flower pots, and properly dispose of item like cans, buckets, bottles and barrels so they don't hold water in which the mosquitos can breed.
Martinez said that he works with Mike Brandenburg, chief of the Fort Knox's Natural Resources Branch, to identify areas that might have a high concentration of mosquitos so they can try, when possible, to eliminate the habitat.
"Mosquitos are part of the environment in Kentucky during the warm months of the year, especially from sunset to sunrise daily," Brandenburg explained. "Mowing in cantonment and housing areas helps (to eliminate habitats) as well as eliminating standing water in areas, to the extent practical. Realize that very small depressions can be larvae habitat so eliminating all of them if impossible (helps). Much depends on the frequency, duration and volume of precipitation."
Brandenburg said Zika has not been identified in our area in mosquitos. But there are five cases in Kentucky and seven in Indiana, all travel related, for example travel to areas in central or South America, where Zika has been transmitted by mosquitos. He added that the potential for acquiring Zika in our region is extremely low.
Martinez said that BG Sentinel traps capture mosquitos that carry Zika--and EH will soon be getting those to use on Fort Knox.
In preparation for the mosquito program Martinez said there have been entomologist with EH during the last few weeks.
"Since there isn't an entomologist on this installation, I reached back to PHC about four months ago and asked the entomologist to come down to help train and refresh the EH section in entomologist surveillance and identification," he said.
According to the CDC website once a person has been infected he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. But Brandenburg and Martinez both say that area residents should take precautions against mosquito bites and survey their yards and patios for areas that might make good habitats because of standing water.
Other precautions include:
• Using an insect repellent--but be sure to follow the labeled precautions. After returning indoors and before eating, use soap and water to wash skin that has been treated with insect repellent.
• Wear clothing that covers hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin. Wear hats with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck. Wear socks that cover the ankles and lower legs,
• When outdoors use sunscreen in conjunction with insect repellent
For more questions about Zika please see the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/united-states.html.