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AF public health to conduct mosquito tests

  • Published
  • By Brian Hagberg
  • 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
While most of the Gulf Coast states are gearing up for what could be a long battle with Zika-infected mosquitos this summer, Public Health personnel at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, are cautiously optimistic the disease won’t reach this far north.

“There are a lot of tests, a lot of research going into Zika,” said Tech. Sgt. Kit Atchison, 21st Aerospace Medicine flight chief. “One thing they did (confirm) is the type of mosquito that carries it. We don’t have that type of mosquito.”

Even so, Public Health will begin deploying mosquito traps throughout the base this week in order to test mosquitos for disease. Right now, trapping and testing will be conducted twice per month. That may change depending on results.

“If we happen to trap and we only find a couple mosquitos, we don’t send those off,” Atchison said. “If we catch a lot, last year we caught 70 at one time, we’ll do it on a weekly basis. Same if something comes up positive, we would probably test twice a week at that point.”

Because one of the traps they use is fueled by a propane tank, Atchison wanted to assure the base the machines are just there for the mosquitos.

“I don’t want somebody to see a propane tank on this machine and (be concerned),” he said. “We always have our number on it if there are any concerns.”

The traps will be deployed throughout the base, including at least one in the housing area, and security forces is notified when the traps will be out.

Mosquitos trapped at Schriever will be sent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, for testing by the entomology department at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.

“Once we send them off, it’s about four to six weeks, on average, to get results,” Atchison said.

The plan is to test every mosquito for the full gamut of potential diseases.

“Basically, any kind of disease that a mosquito can carry,” Atchison said. “Anything that’s on the radar, they test the whole spectrum. For instance, last year they weren’t testing for Zika. This year, they will.”

Even though Zika, which is currently occupying most of the national attention due to the recent outbreak in Brazil, isn’t considered a risk here, other mosquito-born diseases such as West Nile are.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 101 reported cases of West Nile in Colorado, resulting in two deaths. The total cases put Colorado third in the country for reports of West Nile, behind California, 730, and Texas, 252.

Atchison said Public Health already has a plan in place if a test comes back positive for anything. The office would work closely with other base agencies to get the word out and mitigate any exposure.

“The first thing we would do is work with civil engineering on all the prevention methods,” Atchison said. “We don’t ever want to worry people or panic them, but we would put out a general message (explaining symptoms). It just depends on what is detected.”

For more information, contact Public Health at 567-2661.