Fort Detrick Sets Traps for Zika-carrying Mosquitoes

Fort Detrick (U.S. Army photo)
Fort Detrick (U.S. Army photo)

Fort Detrick is participating in a nationwide search for Zika-carrying mosquitoes as the virus spreads through countries with warmer climates.

Preventive health staff at Fort Detrick have placed traps on the main post and in Area B, an almost 400-acre parcel to the west of the main post, to detect the presence of two species of Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

There is a low risk of mosquitoes infecting humans with the Zika virus in the Frederick County area, according to Army Maj. Katina Foxworth, a public health nurse at Richard Barquist Army Health Clinic at Fort Detrick.

If Zika carriers are found at Fort Detrick, they will contribute to the Department of Defense's study of the spread of the virus.

The traps on post are called ovitraps, according to Mary Thomas, chief of industrial hygiene and environmental health at Barquist. Mosquitoes lay eggs in the water-filled cups, which will help staff determine where those specific mosquitoes breed.

"Part of this is a giant research project to see where the vectors are," Thomas said.

A second kind of trap, produced by biotechnology company Biogents, draws adult mosquitoes into a canister using a human-scented lure, according to Alfred L. Hoch, Fort Detrick's pest management coordinator.

Of the mosquitoes that fall into the trap, only those that can carry Zika will be sent to the Army Public Health Center at Fort Meade for analysis, Thomas said.

The canister-style traps, called BG-Sentinels, will not arrive at Fort Detrick for at least two more weeks.

Those models were on backorder, Thomas said, and installations in southern U.S. states and in tropical areas were higher priorities than Fort Detrick.

Military installations have five levels of response to Zika virus infections. At level five, the highest, mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus and/or there are infected patients with no known travel history to a country with an active Zika outbreak.

At level one, no human cases of Zika have been reported.

"Here in Maryland, we're really only supposed to be handing out literature," said Lanessa Hill, a spokeswoman for the garrison.

Fort Detrick is at level one, but staff are going above and beyond to prevent Zika from taking hold.

Garrison staff are distributing educational materials about mosquito-borne diseases and working to identify and eliminate sources of standing water.

Hoch said the garrison's Department of Public Works has also stocked the post's stormwater ponds with fish that eat mosquito eggs. The fish look like small minnows, he said, and the larger ponds are filled with "millions" of them.

Maj. Foxworth said she has mostly heard local concerns about children getting the Zika virus and questions about what parents can do to avoid exposure. She recommends insect repellent.

Misinformation about Zika has spread quickly, Thomas said. Hoch said the holes in scientific knowledge about the disease should shrink soon.

"At the end of the summer, we're going to have a lot clearer vision than what we have now," he said.

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