Navy medical entomologists have been on our program several times in recent years to explain how they fight the spread of disease by mosquitoes. Today, LT James Harwood joins us from Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit Six at Pearl Harbor to talk about the front lines of preventing Zika, Dengue and other diseases spread by mosquitoes.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that Zika’s impact to fetal brain development is of great concern. Zika is associated with microcephaly, a condition that caused infants to be born with underdeveloped brains and unusually small heads,” says Lt. Harwood.
The virus is transmitted by certain types of mosquitoes and by sexual contact, “so it is important everyone knows the risks and how to decrease those risks. Aboard Navy Installations, we are increasing surveillance of mosquitoes in coordination with Hawaii’s Department of Health,” advises Lt. Harwood.
NEPMU-6 works with the State to survey mosquitoes, including routinely sharing data between agencies. Lt. Harwood says the collaboration started two years ago when an emerging mosquito borne disease, chikungunya, was popping up across the Pacific.
The Navy does disease surveillance throughout the Pacific – and around the world, in fact. “Our goal is to protect families by preventing the spread of Zika, Dengue, and other diseases; prevent the spread of mosquitoes; and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds,” he sums.
It starts with surveillance efforts using traps like these, but he adds, prevention and control is everyone’s job. There are a number of actions every person can take to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.
NEPMU-6 tips are:
1: Reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home.
The mosquitoes need standing water to reproduce. If standing water is limited, their reproduction is limited. Turn over or throw away anything that collects standing water, change water in flower vases frequently, flush bromeliads (or plants that hold water) weekly or spray their water-holding areas with soapy water, and fix screens to keep mosquitoes out of your homes.
2: Reduce your individual risk of a bite.
When going into regions where mosquito-borne diseases occur, wear long pants and sleeves when possible and use insect repellents containing 20% Picaridin or 20-30% DEET.