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Officials Say Coronavirus Risk to Personnel Low, But Advise Precautions

Jan. 31, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Although the risk of contracting the new coronavirus virus is low, Centers for Disease Control officials said, they recommend getting an influenza vaccine and taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs.

Further guidance includes handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and if not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Also, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and avoid close contact with those who are sick. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces should also be done.

Microscope view of virus.
Coronavirus
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo shows the coronavirus.
Photo By: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
VIRIN: 200129-O-ZZ999-002A

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs is working with the Joint Staff and others for any potential increased screening of DOD populations at ports of entry.

"I approved a directive apprising our forces about precautions they should take, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of the virus," Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper  said yesterday. "The Department of Defense continues to work closely with our interagency partners as we monitor the situation and protect our service members and their families, which is my highest priority."

Microscope view of virus.
Coronavirus
The U.S. government and international partners are working closely to monitor an outbreak caused by a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City in China’s Hubei province.
Photo By: Food and Drug Administration
VIRIN: 200129-O-ZZ999-001A

The novel coronavirus, or 2019 nCoV, continues to spread, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting several thousand cases worldwide, including cases in the United States, according to force health protection guidance from Matthew P. Donavan, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The State Department has issued a "do not travel" order to China.

Map with several countries, including the United States, in red.
Coronavirus Map
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map shows countries in red where the new caronavirus has been detected.
Photo By: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
VIRIN: 200129-O-ZZ999-004

DOD officials said the department will work closely with interagency efforts and follow CDC guidance regarding the outbreak.

The Military Health System is prepared to execute updated guidance due to the fluidity of the situation, officials said. Due to the dynamic nature of this outbreak, DOD guidance recommends that people frequently check the CDC website for updates. If DOD personnel have returned from travel to China in the last 14 days or had close contact with someone infected with 2019-nCoV and feel sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing, CDC directs seeking medical care right away, calling ahead to provide information about recent travel and symptoms so preparations can be made in advance for the visit. Also, CDC officials said they avoid contact with others.

Novel Coronavirus
Novel Coronavirus
Novel Coronavirus
Photo By: Bryce Evans
VIRIN: 200130-D-EX074-001

There are no specific treatments for the 2019-nCoV, but treatment for people with severe cases would include care to support vital organ functions, officials said.