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Break the chain

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christopher S. Sparks
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The U.S. Air Force is adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensuring the health and safety of Airmen and their families in order to maintain a mission-ready force has become a critical priority now more than ever.

The 48th Medical Group Public Health office epidemiology section continues to ensure mission readiness by managing the control and prevention of diseases, and strives to narrow exposure and mitigate risks involved with the spread of disease.

“A big part of what we’re doing is contact tracing,” said Master Sgt. Alexander Luke, MDG public health flight chief. “If a patient shows symptoms of a disease we will be notified and will begin working with them from that point on. We figure out where the patient has been and who they’ve been in contact with, so we can boil down where the outbreak originated.”

Through surveillance and investigation methods, Public Health tracks outbreaks or spikes in any particular disease or ailment, to include flu-like symptoms, sexually transmitted infections and COVID-19 base-wide. The findings are recorded locally and reported to the U.S. Air Force.

In addition, Public Health provides education and guidance to the patient to prevent risk of causing further exposure and spread of their disease.

“When active-duty members are pulled from their job for any medical ailment, it hinders the mission,” said Senior Airman Chanel Childs, 48th MDG Public Health technician. “You want to prevent any spread of disease and have Airmen back at work because everyone is mission-essential.”

In cases like COVID-19, Public Health implements isolation and quarantine measures to protect the safety of the base population.

“It’s important to break that chain,” Luke said. “In the last several months, we’ve done a good job of locating the [infected] individual, determining what their exposure has been, and mitigating that risk by either isolating the member or placing them in quarantine to lessen the chance of further spread of COVID-19.”

To maintain flexibility in an ever-changing pandemic environment, Liberty Airmen are required to complete medical evaluations to include physical examinations, blood tests and vaccinations to meet host nation requirements when tasked with a deployment.

“Countries that may have not had an extensive medical requirement list prior to COVID-19 are now changing their requirements almost daily,” Luke said. “We have to thoroughly review requirements every day to make sure our members meet those changes.”

Education, detection and prevention remain the fundamental pillars of the 48th MDG Public Health office to combat widespread diseases and maintain the safety and health of Liberty Airmen. Their diligence ensures the 48th Fighter Wing’s capability to provide worldwide combat airpower and response for European partners and allies, and serves a vital support function to the cornerstone of readiness success.