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Team Uses Afghan Airwaves to Counter Flu Misinformation

By Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne
Special to American Forces Press Service

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Dec. 1, 2009 – Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team servicemembers recently took to the airwaves to combat misinformation about the spread of the H1N1 flu virus here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy Lt. Jennifer Dreiling, a senior medical officer for the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team, records a radio message on Radio Kalagush, a U.S.-funded Afghan radio station that broadcasts from Forward Operating Base Kalagush in eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, educating locals about the H1N1 flu virus, Nov. 19, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Navy Lt. Jennifer Dreiling, team senior medical officer from McLean, Va., and Navy Lt. j.g. Stacy Gross, team information operations officer from Lakeville, Minn., broadcasted public health messages about the virus Nov. 19 on Radio Kalagush, a U.S.-funded Afghan radio station transmitted from Forward Operating Base Kalagush.

The messages informed people how to react to the common cold or H1N1 symptoms, and what to do if they suspect they have the virus, Gross said.

Military officials in Nuristan say insurgent forces have spread misinformation on how the H1N1 is contracted and where it comes from.

“Part of the aim of the messages themselves is to dispel those rumors, like you can contract the disease by eating pork or that H1N1 was brought to Afghanistan and spread by coalition forces,” Dreiling said.

Every radio message the team broadcasts with useful information about the virus is another opportunity to take power away from the enemy’s information campaign, Gross and Dreilling said.

The radio messages were successful, Dreilling said, because they “make the people feel like they have control of their own situation, and it’s empowering for them to know what’s going on around them.”

The Nuristan team releases public health radio messages at least once a week.

(Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne serves with the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office.)

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