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Hymenoptera of Afghanistan and the central command area of operations: Assessing the threat to deployed U.S. service members with insect venom hypersensitivity

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Insect venom hypersensitivity can pose a threat to personnel deployed to a combat zone but the exposure risk in Afghanistan is currently unknown. This study was designed to assess the threat of Hymenoptera stings and associated allergic reactions in Afghanistan. Hymenoptera species were collected during a deployment to southern Afghanistan from June 2010 through January 2011. The literature was also reviewed to determine species of medically important Hymenoptera recorded in the region. The U.S. Army theater electronic medical data system was mined for ICD-9 codes associated with insect stings to determine the number of theater medical clinic encounters addressing insect sting reactions. Three species of flying hymenoptera were commonly encountered during the study period: Vespa orientalis L., Polistes wattii Cameron, and Vespula germanica (F.). A literature review also confirms the presence of honeybees (Apidae), numerous velvet ant (Mutillidae) species, and various ant (Formicidae) species all capable of stinging. No evidence was identified to suggest that fire ants (Solenopsis ssp.) are a threat in the region. Based on electronic medical records from the U.S. Central Command area of operations over a 2-year period, roughly 1 in 500 clinic visits involved a patient with a diagnosis of insect bite or sting. Cross-reactive members of all five flying Hymenoptera species commonly assessed for in Hymenoptera allergy evaluations are present in Afghanistan. The review of in-theater medical records confirms that insect stings pose an environmental threat to deployed service members.
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Keywords: Afghanistan; Hymenoptera; allergy; anaphylaxis; bees; deployment; insect sting; military; venom immunotherapy; vespid

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2013

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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