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May 19, 1989

Getting Bugs Out of Military Operations Is Job of Environmental Health Specialty Team

JAMA. 1989;261(19):2821. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420190095021

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WHEN THE US MARINES were sent into Lebanon in 1958, more than 55% of that force became ill from contaminated food or water, or from insect-borne diseases. But when they again were sent to Lebanon in 1982, the troops had only a 2% morbidity from these environmentally associated illnesses during the 21 months they served there.

Playing a major role in reducing the illness rate when the Marines returned was a group of experts, including an environmental health officer, an entomologist, and several preventive medicine technicians combined into what is called a "Mobile Medical Augmentation Readiness Team." The US Navy has 10 such teams.

"In 1982, in that Marine encampment in Lebanon, we took care of our water, we made sure we had good clean food, we saw to it that refuse was disposed of properly, and we kept the fly population down," says Douglas A. Ehrhardt, PhD, a US