ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Health officials at Aberdeen Proving Ground are conducting a mosquito surveillance program to monitor for potential mosquito-borne diseases in the community, including the Zika virus.
According to Capt. Maritzabel Gonzalez, deputy chief of preventive medicine at the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, effective surveillance relies on identifying larval breeding sites and catching, identifying and testing adult mosquitoes for pathogens.
Mosquitoes are vectors; they can carry pathogens from person to person and place to place. This means a mosquito can bite a person infected with the Zika virus and transmit that virus to another person. Only female adult mosquitoes can carry diseases like the Zika virus.
Gonzalez said summer is the peak time for mosquito activity, because they thrive in warm, wet environments. Mosquito activity is noticeable when nighttime average temperatures consistently rise above 50 degrees.
The Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic mosquito surveillance program is part of the Department of Defense Integrated Pest Management program and a component of the strategy mandated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense for controlling Zika-transmitting mosquitoes on military installations.
There are currently five testing sites on Aberdeen Proving Ground North and two on Aberdeen Proving Ground South (Edgewood). Stanley Futch, former garrison entomologist, helped determine the best locations to conduct this surveillance, Gonzalez said.
The environmental health team uses two different kinds of traps to collect the mosquitoes. The light trap, which was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides a reliable and portable sampling device for the collection of mosquitoes. The other kind of trap, which was designed by a private company, attracts mosquitoes using a lure that releases nontoxic substances also found on human skin.