Story by Danielle Bolton
Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Runners and passersby might be alarmed by small white containers being left just inside of the tree line around, Marine Corps Installations-East, but authorities ask for them to be left alone. Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune has placed several vector surveillance systems around the bases and housing areas to trap and allow for testing of the Aedes mosquitos, which is known to carry the Zika virus.
“There have been no reported Zika cases here,” said Lt. Cmdr. Bryan Alvarez, director for Public Health, NHCL . “Trapping is not new. Mosquito surveillance is part of our routine; however it is also part of an integrated pest management strategy to identify whether there are Zika virus transmitting mosquitoes on Department of Defense installations.”
As part of a Secretary of Defense directive to broaden the scope of Zika virus detection, Aedes mosquitoes collected during surveillance on DOD installations will be tested for the presence of the Zika virus.
Zika is a viral infection spread mostly by mosquitoes but there is also risk of sexual transmission. Active transmission of this disease is occurring in the western hemisphere, mostly in South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
“The symptoms of Zika are not life threatening however, there have been several cases in which the virus has spread from mother to fetus and has caused serious health issues in newborn children,” said Vice Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, Navy surgeon general in a Navy blog message.
Naval Administrative Message 121/16 explains that symptoms may include fever, red and irritated eyes, rash, joint and muscle aches, and headache. Most people infected with Zika virus have no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they typically appear 2-7 days after being infected. Currently, no vaccine or drug is available to prevent Zika virus infection, and there is no specific treatment for the disease.
Because of this, it is critical that steps are taken to protect and minimize risk of exposure, infection and transmission.
“Navy Medicine implements the latest Center of Disease Control guidelines and supports installation vector surveillance and control efforts; however, each member of the Navy and Marine Corps family must also do their part to ensure they are protected from the Zika virus,” said Cmdr. Alan Lam, deputy associate director, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery public health, emergency preparedness and response.
According to Marine Administrative Message 83/13, it is important to educate service members, their families and the surrounding communities as to the role they play in protecting readiness.
“Given this responsibility, it is important that regional and installation commanders continue to inform personnel regarding the risks associated with the Zika virus, individual protective measures, and the ongoing efforts across DOD with regard to vector surveillance, testing, and potential for vector control activities.,” according to the MARADMIN.
The Navy surgeon general explains the importance of protection and education.
“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our people. Our first priority is to ensure we offer the best possible care to any Navy Medicine patient in the safest way possible. Our team is closely monitoring the situation, following Centers for Disease Control guidelines and collaborating with our public health partners to protect our patients, our staff and our communities,” said Faison. “Prevention is paramount. The most effective way to avoid prevent infection is avoiding unnecessary travel to Zika-affected areas.”
The following steps are recommended if you must travel to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission:
• Choose a hotel or lodging with air conditioning or with screens on windows and doors.
• Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside or in a room that is not well screened.
• Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. These are safe for pregnant women when used as directed.
• Use permethrin-treated clothing and equipment.
• Abstain from or avoid unprotected sexual contact with men who may have been exposed.
• Use latex condoms the right way, every time you have sex.
Additionally, it is important to limit standing water where the mosquito can breed.
“Control includes eliminating trash and receptacles that can hold water and breed mosquito larvae or treating ones that can’t be eliminated and spraying to kill adult mosquitoes,” said Alvarez. “It is also important to regularly empty, over or turn over equipment that can hold water.”
Navy Medicine providers are trained to recognize the symptoms of Zika and can offer testing to pregnant women who have possible exposure through travel to, or residence in, an area with Zika or who have had sex without a condom with a man with symptoms of Zika virus.
“The Zika virus is topic that is front and center in the news lately and I want to assure you that Navy Medicine is fully-engaged on this issue, protecting you and your family,” said Faison.