JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Navy Entomology Center of Excellence (NECE) hosted a meeting of mosquito and dengue fever experts May 27-28 to discuss preventing an outbreak similar to the one in the Florida Keys in 2009.
Representatives from state and federal organizations discussed options to attack the Aedes aegypti vector (yellow fever mosquito) population in the Keys. The Aedes aegypti vector caused the 2009 outbreak.
"Last year's outbreak produced 22 confirmed and five presumptive cases of dengue fever," said Elizabeth Radke, a Florida Department of Health representative. "So far this year we've had only one confirmed case, which may or may not be related to the outbreak last year."
The conference was meant to bring together as many experts as possible.
"That's the whole reason we held this conference," said Cmdr. George Schoeler, NECE officer in charge. "We sent a team to Key West earlier - entomologists and preventive medicine technicians - who talked to the Naval Branch Clinic and the naval base there, and they worked with the mosquito control district.
This endeavor is important to us especially because of the Navy presence down there, which was directly affected both last year and now this year." Schoeler said at least one Navy operations officer contracted dengue fever in last year's outbreak, and the first case this year was also a Sailor hastened. The discovery of the latest case amplified the importance of the meeting and the goal of eliminating the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes throughout the Keys.
Dr. Robert A. Wirtz, chief entomologist at CDC's Atlanta Entomology branch, said sterile insect technology (SIT) was one approach discussed to eliminate the Aedes aegypti population.
"The concept of SIT is to release large numbers of sterile males into a designated area so that they will mate with fertile females," Wirtz said. "Aedes aegypti females are no longer interested in mating again after they've mated once, thus there is no progeny. You would blanket the area with about 100 sterile males for every one natural sterile male to wipe out a population."
One challenge is re-introduction. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes live in many islands in the Caribbean and in many areas of Central and South America. With so many travelers it would be easy for one fertile female to land in the Keys and repopulate the area. According to Wirtz, preventing re-introduction would require good surveillance - another consideration in the process of elimination.
"Bringing these different, divergent groups together all with a common theme from federal, state, DOD, CDC and some private entities is some really great synergy," said Wirtz. "It's really exciting to think that this could be a kick-off meeting for a really great intervention and control program. And if it's successful here, it could expand to different parts of the world."
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