Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch funds studies on Zika virus
SILVER SPRING, MD – The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB) has allocated $1.76 million in additional funding to 10 Department of Defense laboratories to enhance their surveillance efforts related to the Zika virus epidemic and assess the mosquito-borne disease’s current and potential impact on the health and readiness of U.S. military forces. Laboratories to receive funding include:
- The Naval Health Research Center, based in San Diego, Calif., will receive $204,600 to conduct surveillance in Department of Defense and civilian populations in Arizona, Texas and California.
- The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research based in Silver Spring, Md., will receive $186,000 to conduct clinic-based surveillance at the U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Buchanan, in Puerto Rico, where Zika is emerging, as well as to conduct a serosurvey for Zika among Department of Defense personnel in the Caribbean and other overseas locations.
- The Naval Infectious Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory at the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md., will receive $143,000 to support clinic-based surveillance in the southern Caribbean countries of Grenada, Trinidad and St. Lucia.
- The U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Kenya will receive $150,000 to conduct retrospective surveillance for Zika in humans and mosquitoes in Kenya.
- The Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, based in Bangkok, Thailand, will receive $248,000 to conduct retrospective surveillance for Zika in humans and mosquitoes in Thailand.
- The U.S. Naval Medical Research Center- Asia, based in Singapore, will receive $230,340 to conduct retrospective surveillance for Zika in humans and mosquitoes in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Laos.
- The Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3, based in Cairo, Egypt, will receive $105,100 to expand current arthropod-borne virus surveillance efforts in Liberia.
- The Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6, based in Lima, Peru, will receive $250,00 to expand current clinic-based febrile illness surveillance activities in Central and South America.
- The Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit-2, based in Norfolk, Va., will receive $90,000 to expand entomological surveillance for Zika in Haiti.
- The Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md., will receive 105,100 to conduct a serosurvey for Zika and other vector-borne pathogens among Department of Defense personnel deployed to West Africa.
The funds, provided by AFHSB’s Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response (GEIS) section, will examine the prevalence of Zika infections through clinic-based studies among military beneficiary and civilian populations who receive healthcare at facilities in the southeastern U.S., the Caribbean, Central and South America, West Africa and Southeast Asia.
The laboratories will also conduct surveillance for Zika virus in mosquitoes collected through ongoing entomological surveillance activities in the Caribbean, East Africa and Southeast Asia. The Zika epidemic has become a major health care crisis throughout the world and was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization due to associations with neurological disorders and neonatal malformations such as microcephaly.
Additionally, by leveraging serum samples maintained in AFHSB’s Department of Defense Serum Repository (DoDSR) and support by its Epidemiology and Analysis section, U.S. military virology and public health officials will conduct baseline assessments of prior exposure to the Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses – all transmitted by Aedes spp. mosquitoes – among U.S. military personnel stationed in the U.S. and high-risk regions in the Caribbean and other overseas locations. The DoDSR is the world’s largest repository of its kind with more than 60 million serial serum specimens from more than 10 million service members.
“This kind of biosurveillance and analysis is an important element of the Department of Defense’s commitment to protecting Service members and beneficiaries from global infectious disease threats like the Zika virus,” says Air Force Colonel Carol A. Fisher, Chief of the Defense Health Agency’s Public Health Division, under which AFHSB operates, “It’s critical that we address these issues from a global perspective, and providing additional funding to military labs both in the United States and overseas helps accomplish that.”
In fiscal year 2016, GEIS provided its network partners with more than $51 million to support a wide range of emerging infectious disease surveillance programs that enables force health protection decision making by the U.S. Geographic Combatant Commands and the military services, and policy making by the Department of Defense and the Office of Health Readiness Policy and Oversight.
“Since 1997, GEIS has been a global leader in efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats to the members of the U.S. military. The GEIS partner laboratories have spent decades developing relationships with the host nations where they operate. As a result, the laboratories are able to rapidly respond to disease outbreaks, leveraging their unique capabilities around the world to combat Zika, the latest infectious disease threat to globally operating U.S. forces,” said Navy Commander Franca Jones, chief of the GEIS section. “Their efforts not only support force health protection of U.S. service members, but promote regional stability in these countries where it is vital to U.S. national security interests.”