Public Health: running the trap

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 35th Fighter Wing Public Health team is charged with protecting Team Misawa from a vast array of illness and disease by minimizing health risks within the community.

“Public health’s motto is ‘preventing disease, premature death and disability,’” said Airman 1st Class Morgan Boyd, a 35th Aerospace Medicine Squadron public health technician.

One way to prevent a possible disease outbreak is by setting up New Jersey Light Trap- Co2’s, in an attempt to trap mosquitos around base.

“The whole point of trapping is to catch mosquitos and see if they’re carrying disease,” explained Boyd. “We sort through the insects we trap and extract female mosquitos because they’re the ones able to hold and transmit diseases.”

The process of trapping and sorting through insects can be tedious and take days. The traps are set, the insects are caught and removed and the sorting begins.

“If you find a mosquito or something that looks like it might be a mosquito, you can check it with a magnifying glass or microscope to see if it has a proboscis, or the straw like object they bite you with that can transmit diseases,” said Boyd. “Once you identify it is a mosquito you have to look at the antenna. Males will have a bushier antenna and females will have less bushy antennae.”

Once all the female mosquitos are identified, they’re sent out to Detachment 3, Analytical Laboratory at Kadena Air Base, Japan, to identify whether or not they’re carrying any possible diseases, such as; dengue fever, zika virus or chikungunya.

“If the tests come back with remnants of something, we work with pest management and notify base leadership of increased threat,” said Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson, a 35th AMDS public health technician. “Then we take environmental measures to stop what’s going on or control it or notifying the base populous of preventative measures to help decrease the chances of contracting the disease.”

When finding locations to set the traps, public health collaborates with pest management to develop a vector surveillance plan to identify the searching areas they see the most mosquitos.

“This program is extremely vital to mitigate transmittable diseases that could be fatal to not only the base populous but our Japanese allies,” Nelson said. “We also share information with them, so both our data collectively helps build a program to mitigate the threat.”

The job of public health is to catch these things before they start, allowing the populous to remain worry free.

“Saving life and limb is why we do this,” said Nelson. “Disease surveillance safeguards people stationed here, allowing them to have a great experience without the worry of what’s out there that puts their health at risk.”

Responsible for everything from educating Airmen on safety procedures and food inspection to investigating hazardous materials and sanitary standards, these professionals perform public health activities ensuring Airmen at Misawa remain healthy.

“The program is very small in visibility because it’s just an everyday thing people don’t think about,” Nelson said. “If you go camping or are outdoorsy, sometimes you may forget about bug spray or other safety methods from time to time. That’s where we like to step in and do what’s within our control to ensure safety so everyone can continue to not have to worry about the small things in life, which keep you safe.”

Without the dedication of the Airmen in the public health office, prevention would fall by the wayside, and base readiness could decline.

“Public health tracks everything, so without us, there wouldn’t be any means of prevention,” Boyd said. “Trapping mosquitos may seem like a small thing, but this is a major way to lower the risk and prevent someone from contracting a major disease like, dengue fever, zika virus or chikungunya.”