Dover entomologists help curb spread of Zika

Entomologists at Dover Air Force Base have been at the forefront of the Air Force when it comes to treating aircraft for various insects, rodents and diseases. Now they’ve added a new specialty to their list — stemming the Zika virus.

After Italy issued aircraft guidelines to combat the Zika epidemic, the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron Pest Management section is ensuring Air Force aircraft are able to fly in country.

“The Italian government has issued a quarantine, or a requirement for all U.S. aircraft flying into the country to be disinsected because they want to prevent mosquitos from entering their country and exposing them to Zika,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Fink, the 436th CES Pest Management supervisor. “So we have had to start implementing aircraft treatments.”

With missions already planned for Italy and after the quarantine was issued, the unit had less than 24 hours to develop a treatment plan and begin to treat aircraft as a preventative measure. Without their quick response, missions would have either been canceled or diverted.

Kenneth Barnes, a 436th CES Pest Management foreman, said because Dover AFB is routinely quarantined for aircraft disinsection, his personnel had the experience and knowledge to develop and implement an effective treatment plan quickly.

“We have always been the leaders for aircraft disinsection,” Barnes said. “We are the only base that gets quarantined for Japanese beetles year after year, so we have the experience on treating aircraft. Treating for Zika and treating for the Japanese beetles is not that much different as far as the way we do it, we just use a different chemical.”

Just like treating for the beetles, the 436th Maintenance Group is responsible for prepping the aircraft for treatment. Once all food and paper goods are removed and oxygen masks are covered, the entomologist from pest management can begin to treat the aircraft.

“We are using an aircraft aerosol insecticide,” Barnes said. “It’s called Callington 1-Shot. Basically we go in and fog the entire aircraft from front to back, and it prevents any mosquitos from entering our aircraft and going to other countries.”

It takes six aerosol cans to treat a C-17 Globemaster III and 13 cans to treat a C-5M Super Galaxy. Treating the aircraft is a relatively short task. Once the aerosol cans are completely dispensed, the aircraft is sealed for a period of 15-20 minutes for the treatment to take effect. After that, the aircraft is ventilated and certified to travel.

Since the quarantine is in effect for all U.S. aircraft, the section has been fielding several questions on combating Zika from various bases ranging on how to obtain the chemical to step-by-step procedures to treat aircraft.

“When this hit, we were the lone man standing with the knowledge and the chemical in hand to do anything,” Barnes said. “So now everybody is like ‘ask Dover’ and ‘what is Dover doing’ and we were able to give them answers.”

Barnes and Fink also traveled to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to train seven personnel from the 87th CES Pest Management section on treating aircraft for the Zika virus.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Harris, the 87th CES Pest Management NCO in charge, said the training allowed for both pest management shops to mirror each other’s operations when treating aircraft.

“The Dover Pest Management shop went through all of the requirements that were put in place to treat aircraft that were outbound to and through Italy,” Harris said. “The training included verifying all pre-disinsection procedures were complete and ensuring the right amount of pesticide was used determined by the type of aircraft.”

There’s no indication on how long the quarantine will last, but Fink said they are preparing for long-term Zika prevention operations.

“For now, we are going to be treating aircraft for Zika indefinitely,” Fink said. “Our focus has been turned from a broad spectrum such as insects, weeds and taking care of other miscellaneous tasks, to solely disease vector prevention.”

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