Tis’ the season to wear bug spray

3 Jul 2005 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

There’s a new disease in the Camp LeJeune area that has already claimed over 600 casualties by non-lethal force, and it’s hard to spot unless you know what you’re looking for.

Infection of bug bites is something every Marine should be aware of when they go traipsing through the boonies. With summer in full bloom, ground pounders should be especially watchful for ticks, mosquitoes and other pesky bloodsuckers that try to get under their skin, especially considering that 1,500 Marines may be carriers of this bacteria, which shows no visible symptoms until it enters a puncture wound.

Petty Officer 1st Class Meliano A. Rivera, independent duty corpsman with the II Marine Expeditionary Force Group aid station, reminds Marines that the summer season means Marines need to be highly aware of these nuisances.

There are several infections that can be transmitted or developed from an ordinary bug bite, warned Rivera. The focus this year is a staph infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can develop from any bug bite, cut, scrape or open wound. This type of infection is resistant to normal medications, which is why it’s important to get a diagnosis and closely monitor recovery.

Symptoms of MRSA include joint pain, high fever, and a rash that can develop into open sores or boils on the affected skin area. Infected persons may notice what appears to be blood “streaking” under the skin, which can appear within three to five days after infection.

Capt. Donald R. Thurston, deputy force surgeon and preventive medicine officer here, pointed out that military members are at a slightly higher risk for exposure to MRSA due to close-quarter living arrangements, as it can be spread by direct and indirect contact. This makes field hygiene paramount, and he stressed the importance of frequent disinfection by hand washing to avoid contamination.

“If a Marine has a suspicious bite, they should get a medical evaluation immediately,” said Rivera. “If possible, save the bug for identification purposes so that we can get a better idea of what you might have.”

While infections can be spread through any bug bite or cut, ticks have an especially bad reputation but the biting midges (no-see-ums) cause many of the infections as evidenced at Parris Island.

Rivera offered helpful tips to Marines headed into the field this summer. “Spray yourself and your uniform with bug spray, wear skin protectant, and wear clothing that will prevent bugs from getting to you,” he advised. “Sometimes it’s worth it to wear panty hose to the field because ticks won’t be able to attach to you (you may laugh, but it works).”

Anything abnormal isn’t something to ignore, said Rivera.

Infections caused by bites, cuts and scrapes are treatable, but it’s something to keep in mind before charging into the brush.

“It’s basic field hygiene,” said Thurston, “but Marines need to know it’s out there.”