U.S. Africa Command is stepping up efforts to prevent one of the biggest killers in Africa with the establishment of the East African Malaria Task Force, April 25, 2012.
AFRICOM epidemiologist Dr. Refaat Hanaa, said the task force formed in December and will meet July 24-July 26 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to discuss ways to combat the disease, which kills some 600,000 African children each year.
Besides Tanzania, other partners in the task force are Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda.
Hanaa was one of the several AFRICOM medical experts answering questions today at the World Malaria Day informational tent in front of the Kelley Theater.
Wearing t-shirts emblazoned with "Malaria Bites" the experts handed out fliers, talked about mosquito nets and sprays and offered a chance to look at some of the common malaria-carrying mosquitoes and their larvae under a microscope.
The information was geared mostly toward AFRICOM personnel who may travel to Africa, where malaria is one of the most serious health threats they'll face.
"The first step is get to know who you're fighting," said Dr. (Lieutenant Colonel) Steven Baty, a veterinary epidemiologist for Public Health Command Region - Europe. "If we can identify the mosquitoes in the area that are going to carry malaria then we can look at prevention programs."
Because AFRICOM personnel often travel in small groups to the continent, it's important to stay healthy.
"Each person is critical," said Lieutenant Colonel Jose Nunez, chief of the AFRICOM Health Protection Branch. "If you have one person go down, that person can't do his or her job."
The Stuttgart Health Clinic annex at Kelley Barracks is a one-stop shop for AFRICOM personnel traveling to Africa. The clinic provides health screenings, immunizations, malaria prophylaxis and mosquito repellents.
"It is the best travel readiness clinic in the entire (Department of Defense)," said Dr. (Major) Robert Holmes, AFRICOM's infectious disease physician.
The clinic celebrated its one-year anniversary this week. Holmes said the clinic handled 3,500 patient visits in its first year, including about 750 related to travel to Africa.
"It's a huge capability," Major General Barbara Faulkenberry said of the clinic, an arm of the main Stuttgart Army Health Clinic at Patch Barracks.
Treated mosquito nets are also available to personnel traveling to the continent.
Mosquito nets are one of the best ways to prevent malaria, and are a focus of some of AFRICOM's outreach efforts to partner nations.
In March, the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa handed out some 18,000 nets to residents in Ethiopia, part of ongoing effort to distribute nets, rope and nails.
Other AFRICOM efforts to combat the spread of malaria include a series of training events in Tanzania designed to improve diagnostic techniques and a malaria awareness event as part of the annual MEDFLAG exercise last year in Ghana.