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Disease prevention and countermeasures headquarters, Medical command:the military medical support control tower fighting COVID19...

Thorough management of COVID-19 outbreaks, to play a pivotal role in preventing the spread of infection

Around-the-clock response system
Rapid and systematic actions for COVID-19 cases within the military
Preemptive and preventive quarantine after thorough epidemiological survey
Confirming change of conditions from hospitalization to discharge and return
PCR test support and call center for consultation also available

In the work to block the spread of COVID-19 within the military, particularly in the dangerous situation of 2.5 level social distancing due to the recent resurgence of COVID-19, the work of the armed forces medical command has really stood out. In particular, as of September 7 the AFMC's Disease Prevention and Countermeasures Headquarters has been working around the clock for 230 days to respond to COVID-19.

"Military COVID-19 case. Military epidemiological investigator, move to the scene! All set for 50 contacts' sample collection and laboratory at the Korean Armed Forces Capital Hospital!"

When a COVID-19 case occurs within the military, you can sense the urgency in the air at the AFMC's Disease Prevention and Countermeasures Headquarters. This is because the headquarters plays the role of COVID-19 control tower, from hospitalization to discharge.

With the commanding officer, Seok Woong, brigadier general of the army, as the director, the Disease Prevention and Countermeasures Headquarters consists of 70 personnel and 4 teams: a surveillance and prevention team, a health operational support team, a situation control team and a personnel and logistical support team. Significantly, it has kept up a 24-hour response system with the commissioner and director of the control, situation officer and working groups for different areas.

DPCH divides its shift patterns into 4 stages according to disease alert crisis levels: attention, caution, warning, serious. The 'serious' level, which is the top crisis level, is subdivided into A to C according to the number of new COVID-19 cases in the military and the local community in order to be flexible in responding to the situation. When a new COVID-19 case occurs within the military, it responds rapidly and systematically according to the reaction manual, playing a key role in preventing the additional spread of infection.

Professional judgment and prompt decision

One of the primary tasks of the DPCH is to trace the infection route by rushing the military epidemiological investigators to the scene depending on the matter. At the same time, it works together with each service to sort contacts who are judged by unit and preventive testees who meet the military standards, collects their samples, and support PCR tests.

Based on the results of the epidemiological survey, it takes all necessary actions to prevent the spread within the military, including access control to units, instruction on how to quarantine military personnel and employees, advices for infection control around quarantine facilities, health control support, etc.

Also, it identifies the infection route of COVID-19 within the military and their contacts, and works together with local governments for prompt assignment of sickbed and quarantine of contacts in order to prevent the spread of infection.

Significantly, further support will be provided for hospital treatment for contacts by providing 40 general wards at military trauma center, which is to be changed to quarantine treatment starting September 9, and 8 critical care beds for severe COVID-19 patients at the Korean Armed Forces Capital Hospital which has been operated since September 4.

Lieutenant Colonel Hwang Jum-suk, director of the control team, commented "When COVID-19 occurs within the military, the most important thing in preventing the spread of additional infection is professional judgment and prompt decision. Please follow the instructions of DPCH, where experts from different specialized areas have gathered together to solve the problem."

Manages military COVID-19 patients until they return

DPCH performs advanced prevention and follow-up activities against COVID-19 as well.

First of all, DPCH has been making a range of efforts to block the inflow of COVID-19 into the military. Every military hospital has installed a screening clinic to confirm COVID-19 infections and sort patients with symptoms for different tests. It has been also operating quarantine beds in the hospital, supporting a preemptive isolation hospital for 1,200 preventive isolated persons so far.

Executives at the medical information center, AFMC's DPCH, consult about COVID-19 on the phone. It supports PCR tests as well, running tests on 180 samples per day on average through 4 units including the Armed Force medical science research institute and Korean Armed Forces Capital Hospital, among others. DPCH operates a military call center, similar to the 1339 call center of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to provide counseling support related to COVID-19, and has supported approximately 6,200 callers from January to the end of the last month.

In addition to this, DPCH has established Korea Armed Medical Support Group against national crisis, to support airports, ports, civil hospitals, school institutes, etc. through providing support to people who suffer from COVID-19.

One of the tasks of DPCH that should be noted is follow-up management of COVID-19 cases. Under its 'health management system for COVID-19 cases,' it takes care of patients from hospitalization to discharge. This system regularly traces their health changes and helps in their treatment by listening to difficulties during the quarantine. Soldiers who recover are returned to their units and their normal duties after discharge based on the standards and clinical criteria set by the health authority.

As Commanding officer of the Army Medical Command Seok Woong commented: "Disease Prevention and Countermeasures Headquarters, Medical Command, is striving to minimize COVID-19 cases in the military and to prevent the spread of infection within the military, despite the resurgence of COVID-19. Until the moment COVID-19 comes to an end, we are devoting all our strength to completing our duties and missions."

 By Chae-Mu, Im < >

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