US Air Force medical specialists are partnering with local experts here to hunt and trap some of the world’s most dangerous insects, carrying some of the world’s deadliest diseases.
In an effort to conduct surveillance and encourage Cambodians to expand their technology and health care, the medical specialists and local teams are working around the clock in support of Operation Pacific Angel Cambodia 11-1, a combined partnership between the US and Cambodia.
The team traveled by boat to investigate and retrieve data from a village of 300 people where several cases of malaria have been reported. Traps from the Centers for Disease Control were placed near living areas and water sources, drawing mosquitoes and other insects in by scent and light. Overnight, the traps collected a variety of mosquito species, some of which are known for carrying malaria and dengue.
“There are several species of mosquitoes here but there are only two that we’re primarily interested in, the Anophelines and the Aedes albopictus,” said Capt. Wes Walker, a medical entomologist assigned to the Detachment 3, US Air Force of Aerospace Medicine. “By setting these traps and capturing them we can further our study and understanding of the disease carrying mosquitoes.”
According to the captain, large areas of water and artificial containers are breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes lay eggs in and around water sources and the water begins the development the eggs which hatches producing larva. Within a few days they become adults.
“Most of the water sources we looked at had a substantial amount of larva,” said Captain Walker. “We found significant numbers of larva in rain collected drinking water containers and in areas near houses.”
The research and data along with larva and mosquito samples will be given to the Cambodian Ministry of Health and to the general population, including other laboratories across the world.
“We are very happy to work next to Air Force conducting research,” said Chan Phoum, local field malaria researcher. “What we’re doing is very important and I appreciate them assisting us.”
The critical research provided a bond for the US and Cambodian researchers, partnership that will affect the entire population of Cambodia.
“I was excited to work with Phoum,” said Capt. Walker. “We’re able to put our technology to use to help fight deadly diseases here, being able to share data with them to give to their own people. Being able to teach prevention and provide education about malaria and dengue, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”
Pacific Angel Cambodia 11-1 combines military and civilian personnel to provide medical, dental, optometry and engineer programmes as well as airfield operations and infection control subject-matter expert exchanges. Medical teams and other specialties participating in the operation will continue work alongside their Cambodian counterparts through August 12. -by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz