One Team One Fight
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa, Japan -- Several Joint Public Epidemiological Action Center for Health members met with University of the Ryukyus professors and Okinawa Prefectural Government representatives at U.S. Naval Hospital Department of Preventive Medicine, Camp Foster, Japan, Oct. 13, 2016.
Fourteen different military units across Okinawa make up the JPEACH team helping to combat preventative diseases such as Malaria and Japanese Encephalitis virus.
The University of the Ryukyus and the OPG are spearheading projects aimed at preventing JEV and Malaria with added support from the JPEACH – the combined team achieves their goals of strengthening domestic and international medical research networks. The Japanese central government started this initiative in 2015.
“Pooling the Air Force and Navy data with the University of the Ryukyus and OPG will provide a more complete picture of mosquito-borne disease hazards for the island,” Air Force Col. John Cotton, 18th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander said. “This will benefit all Status of Forces Agreement members, as well as all Okinawans, because we will have a better understanding of the distribution of mosquito species that typically carry diseases.”
According to a University of the Ryukyus fact sheet, the project is geared toward finding vaccines to combat diseases and also finding mosquito nests to study how they live and adapt.
“We are working on the detection of diseases they could carry.” Cotton said. “The Air Force and the Navy preventive medicine teams on Okinawa welcome the opportunity to collaborate with local academic professionals and the OPG to help detect and prevent the spread of communicable diseases on the island, and we are hopeful this will lead to other areas of mutual cooperation and a long-term relationship based on friendship and collegiality.”
Cotton added through these missions the ability to detect the presence of diseases like Malaria, JEV and Dengue fever earlier will be enhanced, allowing more time to warn the public and institute preventive measures.
One way the JPEACH team hopes to accomplish this is to find areas of collaboration with respect to vector-borne diseases (infections transmitted by the bite of infected arthropod species, such as mosquitoes, ticks, triatomine bugs, sandflies, and blackflies).
“Specifically, the University of the Ryukyus is looking for results of mosquito trapping on the various bases and camps on the island,” said Cotton. “They would like information on the species we trap, what diseases - if any - we find, and the locations of where we trapped them. This information will be put in a map to create a hazard map for the island.”
He added the university is performing research into the detection of leptospirosis (an infectious bacterial disease occurring in rodents, dogs and other mammals, which can be transmitted to humans) on the island.
“We are assisting the university by performing environmental sampling on bases and camps on the island so they can create a more complete hazard map for leptospirosis,” said Cotton. “This could lead to us being able to better predict where and when it’s high-risk during the year.”
He continued by explaining how collaboration between the teams increases the amount of data available and covers a larger geographical area. Thus, the understanding of where the different disease-carrying mosquitoes reside will be increased leading to more accurate prediction methods.
"Sharing information increases communication – potentially creating a better working relationship to makes both sides aware of threats as they emerge,” Navy Cmdr. Michael P. Shusko, U.S. Navy Hospital Okinawa director of public health said. “This can give both sides a better understanding of how they all work to accomplish the same goal.”
Cotton added, “Ultimately, we are all focused on the same goal. The protection of all those who live on Okinawa.”