Bites, stings, and rigors: clinical considerations in African operations

J Spec Oper Med. Winter 2014;14(4):113-21.


The natural health threats in Africa pose daunting clinical challenges for any provider, as evidenced by the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa, but the threat is multiplied for the Special Operations provider on the continent who faces these challenges with limited resources and the tyranny of distance. The majority of operationally significant health risks can be mitigated by strict adherence to a comprehensive force health protection plan. The simplest, yet most effective, technique for preventing mosquito-borne diseases is the prevention of mosquito bites with repellent, bed nets, and appropriate clothing in addition to chemoprophylaxis. Some of the more likely or lethal infectious diseases encountered on the continent include malaria, Chikungunya, dengue, human immunodeficiency virus, and Ebola. Venomous snakes pose a particular challenge since the treatment can be as deadly as the injury. Providers supporting African operations should educate themselves on the clinical characteristics of possible envenomations in their area while promoting snake avoidance as the primary mitigation measure. To succeed in Africa, the Special Operations provider must consider how to meet these challenges in an environment where there may not be reliable evacuation, hospitalization, or logistics channels.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Antivenins / therapeutic use*
  • Bites and Stings / prevention & control
  • Bites and Stings / therapy
  • Chemoprevention
  • Chikungunya Fever / prevention & control*
  • Dengue / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Insect Bites and Stings / prevention & control*
  • Insect Repellents / therapeutic use*
  • Insecticide-Treated Bednets
  • Malaria / prevention & control*
  • Military Personnel*
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Snake Bites / drug therapy*
  • Snake Bites / prevention & control
  • Universal Precautions
  • Vaccines / therapeutic use


  • Antivenins
  • Insect Repellents
  • Vaccines