Preventive Medicine Takes on Mosquitoes in Southeast Asia

Story Number: NNS080824-08Release Date: 8/24/2008 1:02:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Greg Mitchell, Pacific Partnership Public Affairs

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (NNS) -- The USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) preventive medicine (PrevMed) team serving in support of Pacific Partnership 2008 has spent their time in Southeast Asia and Oceania ensuring civic-action sites remain safe from mosquitoes.

Mercy departed San Diego May 1 in support of Pacific Partnership, a four-month humanitarian mission to Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Mosquitoes infested with diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are found throughout the Southeastern Asian region, the main mission sites for Pacific Partnership. For personnel to support the mission in infected areas, the PrevMed Pesticide crew has been ready to challenge the pests that may hamper the mission.

"What we try to do is arrive on scene ahead of the MEDCAP crews and assess the area for potential insect build up," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Brian Walker, a preventive medicine technician from Jacksonville, Fla. "We will then spray down the area of the MEDCAP hopefully before they arrive so it won't be of any inconvenience to them."

Spraying pesticides is just one of the functions performed by PrevMed; they also capture and tests mosquitoes for diseases, by using light traps with catch nets attached to them. Once captured, the mosquitoes are taken back to the ship and tested as potential carriers of malaria parasites. Mosquitoes can be annoying and troublesome, but there are a few ways that one can protect itself from these creatures.

"The first step for anyone participating pier side at any of the MEDCAP or ENCAP sites is the spraying of your clothes," said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Prendergast, PrevMed department head and entomologist aboard Mercy. "We use the [insect] repellent Permetrin to spray on service members' clothing while also recommending [they] keep their sleeves rolled down. Once you treat the uniform with spray, you are pretty much set for the cruise."

"I was one of the first guys of my unit to have my uniforms sprayed," said Construction Electrician 1st Class Franklin Zelch, assistant officer in charge for the 30th Naval Construction Regiment underway for Pacific Partnership. "I would have to honestly say that it has greatly reduced my chances of being bit, but I still get a couple here and there."

PrevMed duties also include heat stress tests in areas such as the galley and laundry areas and water-quality analysis, when they check for proper chlorine levels and bacterial and parasitic organisms that are potentially harmful to humans.

The Pacific Partnership PrevMed team is on their way to the final mission site in the Federated States of Micronesia. PrevMed, along with medical and engineering personnel aboard the Mercy, will visit Chuuk, Pohnpei and Yap for the final mission site of Pacific Partnership 2008.

For more news from Pacific Partnership 2008, visit

Lt. Cmdr. Brian Prendergast and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Edric Aquino assemble a catch net on a light trap.
080817-N-5086M-002 PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Aug. 17, 2008) Lt. Cmdr. Brian Prendergast, left, an entomologist from Buffalo, N.Y., and head of the preventive medicine department, and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Edric Aquino, from Tumon, Guam, assemble a catch net on a light trap aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) during Pacific Partnership 2008. Mercy is the primary platform for Pacific Partnership, a four-month humanitarian mission providing engineering, civic, medical and dental assistance to Southeast Asia and Oceania. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Mitchell/Released)
August 18, 2008
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