The Navy in Hawaii is partnering with the State of Hawaii’s Department of Health (HDOH) in surveillance and prevention of mosquito-borne diseases.
During an interview on local TV June 11, entomologists Lt. Ryan Larson, of Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit (NEPMU) 6, and Dr. Jeomhee Hasty, of HDOH, showed specimens of mosquitoes and explained the importance of working together to prevent the spread of diseases.
The partnership with HDOH was strengthened when the Navy began to recognize the spread of mosquito-transmitted diseases throughout the Pacific last summer.
“Fences don’t stop mosquitos,” Larson told KHON2’s Wake Up 2day audience. “We realized we need to be prepared to respond in case this disease arrived in Hawaii.”
There have been cases of mosquito-borne diseases chikungunya and dengue fever in recent years, according to the HDOH.
“Travelers infected overseas can bring the disease back home where local mosquitos can ‘bite’…and start local transmission of the disease in Hawaii,” said Hasty.
Mosquito surveillance conducted by HDOH since 2010 at Honolulu International Airport supports Hasty’s concern. The mosquito species Aedes aegypti was detected near the airport several times since 2012. This group is more efficient at spreading dengue fever, said Hasty.
The HDOH Navy partnership allows combatting invasive species to move beyond the airport to cover more of the state.
Ryan demonstrated how two different traps are being used in the joint effort. A light trap sucks nocturnal mosquitos in after attracting them with visual cues and carbon dioxide, which mimics human respiration.
He also showed a sentinel trap, which is used for catching day-feeding mosquitos like the ones that carry dengue and chikungunya. Baited with a chemical lure that smells like “the worst pair of smelly socks you can imagine,” this device targets ankle-biting mosquitos, said Ryan.
As for residents of Hawaii, Hasty says using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants can help prevent exposure to harmful mosquito bites. She also recommends eliminating standing water on and around one’s property, which reduces mosquito reproduction.