Due to the nature of military operations, US Service Members deploy
to various parts of the world, usually in developing countries where
infectious diseases continue to be a leading cause of mortality and morbidity.
The US military personnel and support staff are exposed to a wide range
of vectors and vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue, Rift Valley
Fever, and leishmaniasis. The cost to the military for treatment is significant,
but more important is the cost to the military mission in terms of lost
manpower days, reduced combat effectiveness, lowered probability of mission
success, and decreased unit morale. Protecting military and support personnel
is therefore critical to mission success.
The Vector Control Department’s mission is, through research, to develop
and field quality personal protective measures (PPM) and vector surveillance
and control products that prevent vector-borne disease in military deployment
and training environments.
The proper use of a system of personal protection measures (PPM) can
be very effective in preventing disease transmission and reducing nuisance
bites by blood-sucking arthropods. At present the following system is
recommended to protect military personnel against arthropod-borne disease
- Apply controlled-release DEET as a topical repellent,
- Treat field uniforms with permethrin,
- Treat standard insect bed nets with permethrin, and
- Wear the field uniform properly.
Although each component has limitations, this system of overlapping
protection is necessary because it defends against several types of biting
arthropods simultaneously under changing field conditions.
There is evidence of noncompliance with use of PPM in current operational
environment, and this is a major concern. Recent data from Iraq (2003-2007)
suggest that fewer than 30% of Soldiers properly used PPM to protect
against biting insects. Factors that contributed to noncompliance with
PPM use include:
- Intense heat. Due to high temperatures in deployed environments,
off-duty personnel normally wore shorts and T-shirts.
- Failure to treat uniforms and bed nets with permethrin, even when
the appropriate products were available;
- Failure to routinely use topical DEET repellent because personnel
believed it was unsafe, did not like its odor, or felt it was uncomfortable
when applied to the skin;
- Many Service Members did not know how to properly use PPM on a daily
Because there are no vaccines or prophylactic drugs that can protect
our personnel from many vector-borne diseases, the Vector Control department
is faced with a challenge to develop novel effective personal protective
materials, and arthropod surveillance and control products that are very
effective in preventing disease transmission and reducing nuisance bites
by blood-sucking arthropods.