Controlling mosquito populations at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, is more than a convenience — it is a vital health service provided by a team of medical specialists to protect the camp and Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa personnel from the possible spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria.
"The program was created to gauge our risk posture and maintain operational readiness," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dan Anderson, the camp's mosquito-control program director and a public health officer assigned to both Camp Lemonnier and CJTF-HOA Surgeon Cell. "Its primary purpose is to give commanders information to make informed decisions about force-protection measures."
Essentially, the program monitors the mosquito population as a preventative measure, said Anderson. "There are certain types of mosquitoes that transmit diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. We have a high level of interest from a medical standpoint if those types of mosquitoes are present or near Camp Lemonnier because it could impact our mission and the health of our personnel."
Camp Lemonnier Emergency Medical Facility's preventive medicine corpsmen, CJTF-HOA Surgeon Cell personnel and pest-management employees from a support-services company, manage the mosquito control program. Overall, the program conducts mosquito trapping and identifies the type and volume of the insects' population on camp and, when possible, at downrange locations to quantify the risk of mosquito-borne disease.
Though the risk level for contracting malaria is low on Camp Lemonnier, the program leaves nothing to chance.
"On base we have not caught any malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, but it is appropriate to be cautious," said Anderson. Malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases do exist in Djibouti, he said, and if they were found on camp, it could undermine service members' ability to perform their missions.
By and large, data collected from the program helps determine mosquito-abatement measures.
"Tracking the mosquito population helps decide where to concentrate fogging on camp to kill the pests," said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class James Bowes, Camp Lemonnier's EMF senior preventive-medicine technician. "The best way to rid ourselves of possible mosquito-borne diseases is to eliminate the mosquitoes."
HOW TO TRAP A SKEETER
Camp personnel use three types of traps: a light trap created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, a magnet trap and the BG-Sentinel. Both the CDC light trap and magnet trap use carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes. Meanwhile, the BG-Sentinel uses simulated human pheromones to lure mosquitoes.
"The CDC light trap attracts primarily 'night biters'," said Bowes. "Because mosquitoes are more active at night, we tend to capture more with this trap than others." The trap uses dry ice, which produces carbon dioxide as it melts, and a small light at the end of a tube.
The magnet trap lures the insects by the carbon dioxide produced from magnets and is used to catch the few species that are active during daylight, he added.
"The BG-Sentinel trap smells like stinky feet," said Anderson. The trap is a large bucket with human pheromones powder placed at the bottom. Like the light trap, the BG-Sentinel uses a small fan to blow the insects into a net, which also prevents mosquitoes from flying out.
Herman Grant, a vector-control senior supervisor, sets the traps on camp. Then, he collects and delivers them to Bowes and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dwayne Selby, an EMF preventive-medicine technician, for processing.
For their part, Bowes and Selby separate the contents of the traps, count them and package the specimens into vials. Each vial contains 10 mosquitoes.
"Some traps contain thousands of mosquitoes, so the process is time consuming," Bowes said.
Once completed, the vials are sent to the U.S. Army Public Health Command laboratory in Stuttgart, Germany, for analysis.
"There, the mosquitoes are identified by species and checked if they carry a disease," said Bowes.
LOOKING FOR TROUBLE
All in all, Camp Lemonnier's mosquito-control team often look for their enemy by peering under containerized living units, or CLUs, and the ground beneath air conditioners, around plants or puddles in shaded areas.
"Mosquitoes only need shade and a small amount of water to breed," said Bowes. "Areas with standing water are a concern."
Using data collected from traps, the mosquito-control team knows which areas are experiencing a spike in mosquito population and where to focus their attention.
"We check these sites closely, trying to identify the source," said Bowes. The team tests suspected breeding sites and, if confirmed, applies a pesticide to kill mosquito eggs and larva.
THE SKINNY ON CAMP'S SKEETERS
There are more than 3,500 species of mosquito, with each grouped into 41 types of genus. Malaria is transmitted only from the females of the anopheles genus while dengue fever comes from the aegypti species of the aedes genus.
"We have not found a single mosquito on camp capable of carrying malaria," said Anderson.
That doesn't mean Camp Lemonnier's mosquitoes should be underestimated, the program's experts warn. Mosquitoes carry other diseases and malaria-carrying mosquitoes could someday find their way on camp as they have in many areas in Djibouti.
"A low risk is still a risk," said Bowes, who is from Port Angeles, Wash. "It's always best to take steps to prevent bites, like wearing long sleeves and pants."
THE BEST DEFENSE AGAINST MOSQUITO-BOURNE DISEASES
"The three most important steps to avoid bites is to take anti-malarial medication as prescribed, use DEET on exposed skin and wear uniforms with permethrin," said Anderson, a resident of Oak Ridge, N.C.
"A recent study in the U.S. determined wearing permethrin-treated clothes properly with sleeves down led to a 98-percent reduction in mosquito bites as opposed to wearing uniforms not treated with permethrin," he noted.
Other steps to minimize the risk include wearing long sleeves and pants and, when possible, staying inside at dawn, dusk and nighttime, as this is when mosquitoes are most active.
"We want to keep everyone safe," said Anderson. Following basic preventative measures effectively minimizes bites, he added.
In the meantime, the camp's mosquito fighters will continue their efforts.
"The mosquito control program here is outstanding," concluded Anderson. "The collaboration between the EMF preventive-medicine office and the camp's pest management folks who run the program and apply the pesticides is better than at any other base I've seen."
Article courtesy CJTF-HOA Public Affairs