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DoD releases guidance to protect forces from novel coronavirus

The novel coronavirus is a variant of other coronaviruses, such as this colorized transmission electron micrograph of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus particles (blue) found near the periphery of an infected VERO E6 cell (yellow). Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Photo by NIAID) The novel coronavirus is a variant of other coronaviruses, such as this colorized transmission electron micrograph of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus particles (blue) found near the periphery of an infected VERO E6 cell (yellow). Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Photo by NIAID)

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As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, the Department of Defense has established a Spotlight page to disseminate the latest information on the outbreak and to highlight coordination efforts with other organizations throughout the U.S. government. Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matthew P. Donovan released a guidance letter for force health protection specifically relating to the novel coronavirus. In it, Donovan states that DoD will follow guidance by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. While DoD personnel are not specifically at risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus, the fact that service members and their families travel internationally and throughout the U.S. means they should take additional precautions to avoid risk.

The CDC issued new guidance on precautionary steps health practitioners, service members, and their families should take to avoid contracting the virus. For health care professionals, the CDC has provided guidance to avoid additional risk from patients who may have been exposed to coronavirus. After identifying a person at risk or patient under investigation based on symptoms and exposure history, those suspected of illness should wear a face mask and be evaluated in a private room with a closed door or placed in an airborne infection isolation room if available.

The best way for most people to avoid getting sick, according to the CDC, is by implementing standard infection control procedures:

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-percent alcohol
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

The CDC has also warned against all nonessential travel to China. For recent travelers to China, the CDC recommends close monitoring for any changes in their health for at least 14 days after travel. If recent travelers develop a cough or have difficulty breathing, they should avoid contact with others and inform their health care providers about symptoms and recent travel. Anyone currently sick should avoid travel.

The World Health Organization has issued a rare public health emergency of international concern regarding the novel coronavirus, while the U.S. State Department issued travel guidance recommending travelers reconsider any plans to visit China. Further, on Jan. 23, the State Department ordered the departure of all nonemergency U.S. personnel and their family members from Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus was first discovered.

Please visit the Health.mil coronavirus web page for the latest information.

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