Valley conditions used to test repellents for military use overseas

Mosquito Training

SALTON SEA, Calif. - Near the Salton Sea were mosquitoes, flies and a setup of traps and pesticides.

It's where the United States Department of Agriculture teamed up with the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District to research the best tactics to protect soldiers overseas from mosquito and fly-borne diseases. It's part of the Deployed Warfighter Program, funded by the Department of Defense.

"What we're doing is devising new ways to protect military troops that are deployed throughout the world," said Kenneth Linthicum, director at the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural & Veterinary Entomology.

The USDA said each year more than a thousand deployed soldiers are infected with mosquito or fly-borne diseases, such as malaria or dengue. Linthicum, a retired military officer, was one of them who was infected with dengue while deployed in Asia, which transmitted by a mosquito.

"It puts them out of action, on a personal level can cause disease and death in people," he said.

Why research in the Coachella Valley? The USDA said the desert conditions are similar to those in Africa and the Middle East where our troops are based. Also, it's a location where flies and mosquitoes linger.

Researchers took samples of camouflage netting used on military bases and on the battlefield, which were sprayed with different pesticides, to see how long the insect repellents last.

"By treating those with residual pesticides it can help reduce populations of sand flies, mosquitoes and in some cases filth flies," said USDA Entomologist, Seth Britch.

The vector control district says it's also a chance to improve prevention in the Coachella Valley.

"We're able to learn experimental techniques we're not currently doing at the district that we can improve upon," said Greg White, vector entomologist for the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District.

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