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Study Addresses National Security Impact of Disease Threats

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2005 – A new study addresses the military operational impact of new disease threats by looking at risks to servicemembers around the world.

The report, titled "The Bug Stops Here: Force Protection and Emerging Infectious Diseases," offers practical suggestions that will allow the U.S. military to maintain its competitive advantage as it provides security. The study comes from the National Defense University's Center for Technology and National Security Policy.

Over the past 30 years, more than three dozen new and frightening diseases have been identified for the first time. These include the virus that causes hepatitis C, Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever viruses, Legionnaires' disease, and most recently, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

At the same time, of diseases previously thought to be only a minimal threat to human health have re-emerged. And the growing threat of an avian influenza pandemic looms more pervasively.

These increasing global infectious disease threats can seriously affect the stability of governments worldwide. A disease epidemic in the United States might impact U.S. national security. Military operations in regions of disease activity could prevent the successful completion of a mission. An infected soldier carrying a contagious disease back to the U.S. could also affect national security.

This report provides a series of case studies that analyze health threats to each regional combatant command and presents both tactical and strategic recommendations that will better prepare the entire Defense Department for future disease outbreaks.

"This is superb, the best military oriented contemporary study I have seen," wrote retired Army Col. (Dr.) Robert J. T. Joy, Colonel, emeritus professor of medical history at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. "This text should be required reading and teaching at all service schools and staff and war colleges."

"It is essential that the line commanders get the message that the ultimate responsibility for keeping the troops from becoming patients is theirs," retired Vice Adm. (Dr.) James Zimble, former surgeon general of the Navy, said.

The study offers opportunities to improve combat casualty care as the military and civilian health-care systems become more integrated. The nation will reap the benefits as emerging infectious disease threats are anticipated and steps are taken to deal with them, officials noted.

(Based on a National Defense University news release.)

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Related Sites:
Center for Technology and National Security Policy

Related Articles:
"The Bug Stops Here: Force Protection and Emerging Infectious Diseases"

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