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News | Sept. 22, 2017

Southern Partnership Station 17 Preventative Medicine Team Tackles Killer Bees and Mosquitos in Guatemala

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brittney Cannady, Southern Partnership Station 17 Public Affairs

PUERTO BARRIOS, Guatemala (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to the Naval Entomology Center of Excellence (NECE) practiced killer bee and mosquito control and prevention during a visit to the Centro De Atencin Mis Años Dorados, a local nursing home, Sept. 18, during Southern Partnership Station 17 (SPS 17).

Lt. Cmdr. Ian Sutherland, technical director for NECE and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Dominic Ladmirault, a preventative medicine technician, worked together to exterminate a hive of Africanized killer bees and to minimize the mosquito population during their trip to the elderly care facility.

"We were informed during a site survey, that the center had an Africanized killer bee nest which had formed in a tire planted for decoration near the center's garden, and that some residents had been stung," said Sutherland. "After that, we devised a plan to safely remove the bees."

Once they completed their own assessment of the site, the team emptied waterlogged tires and containers. They also sprayed pesticides to disrupt breeding pools for mosquitos responsible for spreading diseases to people in the surrounding area.

Sutherland believed the prevention methods his team shared with the nursing home management staff will help residents understand the importance of vector control.

"When we talk about West Nile [virus], dengue fever and malaria, the elderly population, like residents here, are most at risk to die from the diseases," said Sutherland. "So it's really about public health and preventive medicine."

Once properly educated, the staff could then work to avoid exposure to the disease carrying mosquitoes such as the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, two species commonly found in Guatemala.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that's never more true than in a place like this facility, where resources are low," said Sutherland. "It's critical that they're able to stop things from happening in the earliest stage possible."

To keep mosquito larvae from hatching, the team sprayed low lying areas likely to accumulate water, such as shrubs and inside hollow coconut shells found at the site.

"We brought backpack sprays and all the basics of pesticide application with us. To stop the mosquitos from building an immunity to one repellant we'll spray one in one week and rotate between them," said Ladmirault. "It was an instant feel good to know the residents here can go out into the garden now and enjoy it without being stung by bees or mosquitos."

The preventative medicine team planned educational exchanges with local residents and the Guatemalan military on topics including insect borne disease prevention and shipboard pest management. They looked forward to helping even more people in the region during this final mission stop of SPS 17.

"It was fantastic, that in the spirit of SPS 17, we were able to engage with the residents and make a direct impact while learning what practices they use for vector control," said Sutherland. "We're eager to learn more and conduct as many exchanges as we can while we're here."

USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT supports USSOUTHCOM's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central, and South American regions.

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