By Senior Airman Anania Tekurio, 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 09, 2014
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- They come out during the warmer months, lurking in moist areas and tall grass, searching for human flesh to pierce and are responsible for over 700,000 deaths a year, they are mosquitoes.
"Mosquitoes are known as the deadliest animal in the world," said Airman 1st Class Amanda Joyce, 28th MDOS public health technician. Every year, thousands of servicemembers are bitten by mosquitoes. It is the duty of Airmen from the 28th Medical Operations Squadron, Public Health Office, to surveil these deadly creatures to prevent health threats to humans.
"Mosquitoes can spread many diseases," said Joyce. "Some carry the West Nile virus, while others in different regions of the world carry malaria, as well as other diseases."
Public Health technicians set up several mosquito traps around the base in order to monitor the type and number of mosquitoes in the area and determine what threat they pose to the population by carrying diseases. The technicians trap mosquitoes from June to September, during June and July of this year, 1,750 female mosquitoes were collected.
"Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide and light," Joyce said. "Our traps consist of dry ice placed in a container with holes in it, so the carbon dioxide can seep out, and a tiny light bulb right above a net where the mosquitoes will gravitate and land into."
After keeping the traps out for a full night, public health technicians collect them and begin the process of freezing, separating, packaging and sending out the mosquitoes to the entomologist at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where they are analyzed for species type and disease.
"When separating, we are only looking for the female mosquitoes," Joyce said. "Female mosquitoes need a blood meal to lay eggs so when they bite they may transmit a disease."
"As the temperatures drop so do the amount of mosquitoes found in the area," Joyce continued.
Though some mosquitoes can live over winter, they are only active during the warmer months.
To help avoid being bitten, Joyce recommends not going out during dusk and dawn, using bug repellent and minimizing areas of exposed skin by wearing long sleeves, pants and closed toe shoes.