By Tammy Reed
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Zika virus, and the associated health effects, is a fast growing public health concern and the base along with local medical officials are working to ensure we are prepared.
Representatives from the Arkansas Department of Health and personnel from the 19th Aerospace Medical Squadron Public Health flight met at the 19th Medical Group on July 27, 2016, for training on mosquito-borne illnesses and educating the public about them.
“The training not only focused on Zika, but more importantly on the mosquito, the vector that transmits the virus. Mosquitoes transmit more than just Zika. Here in Arkansas mosquitos have the potential to transmit diseases such as West Nile, Dengue and a multitude of other viruses. Currently there have been no reported cases of locally transmitted Zika virus in Arkansas. However, there have been six reported cases of travel associated Zika within the state,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Earl Thomas, 19th AMDS Public Health Flight Commander.
The training also focused on vector surveillance and control along with disease prevention. They discussed how to determine which types of mosquitoes are present through the use of traps and surveying for larva in water sources.
“We have submitted over 800 samples from LRAFB and surrounding counties for disease testing. So far all have tested negative for disease,” Thomas said.
Finally, different avenues on how to educate the public about preventing mosquitoes from breeding around homes was discussed.
“One of the keys to controlling the mosquito species that transmits Zika and other diseases is understanding that they prefer man-made habitats and do not fly far from where they breed,” he said. “These mosquitoes are actually breeding close by, in environments we [help] create around our homes and workplaces.”
Health experts emphasized looking around homes and removing any standing water. Everything from a small children’s pool in the backyard and water puddling on tarps, to clogged gutters and planters with water in trays are prime breeding grounds for these mosquitoes. Taking action to eliminate these breeding areas is the most effective means of controlling these mosquitoes.
Keeping mosquitoes from breeding is key; but once mosquitoes have developed, the next important step is not to be bitten.
“The key to insect repellants is to use products tested for safety and effectiveness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend several effective compounds such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 and Oil of lemon eucalyptus, Thomas said. “Using products that contain these compounds and using them according to the label is the safest and most effective way to reduce the risk of mosquito bites when outside.”
The community can augment personal protection methods mentioned above with other readily available products.
“The little fans that you clip on that release DEET are great for sitting on your deck or in the bleachers at a sports event,” Thomas said. “The citronella products also help to keep them away from you. Unlike many other species, these mosquitoes don’t fly just during twilight, they will fly and feed during the day as they require a meal.
“Mosquitoes are attracted to our breathing, specifically the (carbon dioxide) we breathe out, and our body heat. They are specially adapted to search us, or any other warm-blooded meal out,” he said. “Whether you are at work (outside), sitting in the shade of your deck, working in your garden or out for a walk make sure you take proper precautions; if not, you are just ringing their ‘dinner bell.’”
For more information on the Zika virus and avoiding mosquito bites, contact the 19th AMDS Public Health office or visit www.cdc.gov/zika/.