Part Two: Flu Prevention and Treatment - DoD Roundtable Discussion
In a continuation of information sharing about the H1N1 virus the Department of Defense New Media Directorate held a second Roundtable Discussion this morning. The discussion centered on the outbreak of H1N1 last July at the Air Force Academy among new cadets arriving from all 50 states and several overseas countries as well.
On June 25th 1,500 new cadets arrived for training and on the 4th of July there was a large social event in which all participated. The virus spread during this time frame and eventually during the month long period there were 134 confirmed cases and 33 suspect cases of the flu (about 11% of the freshmen cadet population). The Academy medical staff was augmented with a team of experts to determine appropriate actions including isolation and other public health measures. They also conferred with the CDC (Center for Disease Control). By July 25th the widespread attack had ended but there are still occasional cases of the flu similar to the civilian population.
The flu did not spread beyond the initial population group due to the measures taken and was determined to be a very mild version of the flu with no hospitalization required for any of the cadets. (My note: This would be a very healthy group of individuals and does not mirror the general population). The Academy has continued with many of the same public health measures they instituted to avoid a resurgence of the illness. These included frequent hand washing, availability/use of hand sanitizers, isolation in their room during illness and public health announcements (including email) to the cadet and staff population.
Colonel (Dr) Ken Knight, the 10th Medical Group Commander, stated that many lessons learned were shared with the entire defense community and that the CDC was a great resource! He said the key during any outbreak was communication and that the appropriate commander (or civic leader) in any location had many difficult decisions to make. The Academy canceled a downtown event during the outbreak to prevent its spread off campus. The leadership also had to continue the training mission and make the right health decisions at the same time. Civic leaders face the issue of school closures and other measures in locations where the population reaches a certain level of absences as it has in our Michigan local area.
Col Knight said that none of the cadets had been vaccinated yet as they are still waiting for their doses of vaccine. They will receive theirs within the DoD priority system and expect them in 2-3 weeks but the national delay is affecting them too. When they receive the vaccine all cadets will receive an inoculation.
Thank you to Col (Dr) Ken Knight, 10th Medical Group Commander; Lt Col (Dr) Catherine Witkop, Preventive Medicine Physician, 10th Medical Group and LT (US Navy) Jennifer Cragg, New Media Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs for providing this opportunity to meet and discuss this topic!
** Photo US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J McNeely Tickets Still Available for Saturday's Air Force/Army Game
For further information on the medical study go to Novel Influenza Outbreak at the U.S. Air Force Academy written by Lt Col Witkop and her team.