DVIDS – Information – The Air Power Medical Entomology helps a far-reaching mission and is looking for candidates


Whether at home or on duty, the Medical Entomology Mission plays a major role in aviator safety.

Working with public health, medical entomologists study various insects, pests, and the diseases they carry to determine how they can affect the health of service members.

“If it is to make our troops sick, it is of medical concern to our entomologists,” said Maj. Stephanie White, US Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa Command Entomologist, Division 4, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “We check whether vectors or pests such as ticks, mosquitoes or rodents are present in the environment. We are investigating whether these vectors or pests carry known pathogens and whether they can negatively affect our staff. We then recommend damage control recommendations to minimize exposure. “

Part of their mission includes actively monitoring the presence of vectors and pests that could potentially harm the airmen in the operating environment.

“By monitoring, we can identify insects or pests in our environment and the potential pathogens that carry them,” said White. “We also assess when and why the insect or pest is present. This way we can determine if it is a threat and identify an acceptable proportion of that insect or pest in the vicinity of our staff. “

Medical entomologists use this information and work with pest management personnel to take or change mitigation measures to control insect or pest populations. This information may also include recommendations to the population on how to implement other personal protection measures, including the use of insect repellants and mosquito nets, based on insect or pest behavior.

As White explains, even if an insect or pest isn’t carrying a disease, they can be a significant health problem.

“When I was in Charleston, the Navy had training grounds along the salt marshes where mosquitoes are aggressive walkers and can be found in very large numbers,” explains White. “Large swarms of these mosquitoes were responsible for the bleeding and death of cattle along the Gulf Coast. When these mosquitos began to attack and caused problems for dock workers who were then unable to do their jobs, it affected the Navy’s ability to complete their training.

“We had to conduct adequate pest control that would allow dock workers to return to work and continue the Navy program. In this case, we implemented the aerial spray control provided by our reserve airmen from the 757th Airlift Squadron in Youngstown, Ohio. “

Another part of the medical entomology mission is to educate Airmen about potential threats to their workplace and to protect themselves. This is especially important when preparing Airmen for a mission where they may encounter insects or pests that they are less familiar with and that require different safety precautions.

“Often times the threats we see at home vary when deployed,” White said. “For example, many of us have learned the rhyme about patterns to identify venomous coral snakes that read, ‘Red and yellow, kill a guy. Red and black, sure for Jack. ‘But that only protects you in the US. Applying this rhyme in South America can actually get you into big trouble. We’re working to help airmen understand that what they know at home is not necessarily effective abroad. “

Medical entomologists also bring their expertise to global health missions and support foreign military partners with vector disease outbreaks. They also support humanitarian operations, especially after a natural disaster, which requires action to control insects so that the emergency services can continue their work.

According to Lt. Col. Timothy Davis, medical entomology consultant for the Air Force Surgeon General, between courses, training and experiences, medical entomologists can understand how insects and pests can affect the overall mission.

“Medical entomologists need to be specialists in vector identification,” said Davis. “We also need to be vector-borne disease ecologists to understand the complex life cycles of pathogens that can pass through different hosts, reproduce in large numbers, and get to a person, leading to disease. Knowing the many steps and stages in the disease cycle can help identify the weak link in the chain of infection. Medical entomologists must have a strong scientific background to really understand what steps should be taken to keep our members safe. “

The Air Force has 12 active medical entomologists and is looking for candidates to fill more positions around the world.

“Whether it’s protecting airmen from bed bugs and leishmaniasis in Southwest Asia, catching mosquitoes in the Caribbean to examine Zika, working with local health departments in the US and overseas to fight disease, or serving a base in the Managing public health in the Air Force has many different goals and rewarding opportunities for medical entomologists, ”said Col. James Poel, chief of public health for the Air Force Medical Readiness Agency.

To be a medical entomologist, Airmen must have at least a master’s degree in entomology or any other scientific field with a specialty in entomology.

To learn how to become an Air Force Medical Entomologist (Air Force Specialty Code 43H3E), please visit https://www.airforce.com/careers/detail/medical-entomologist.

Recording date: 06/10/2020
Release Date: 06/10/2020 9:51 AM
Story ID: 380311
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