As service members deployed to help fight the spread of Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia, medical experts at U.S. Africa Command prepared troops to face an even bigger threat to their safety - Malaria.
“The biggest threat to our forces was actually the risk of Malaria,” said Army Lt. Col. Sueann Ramsey, AFRICOM’s chief of force health protection. “We knew that it was a high risk going in. Compared to Ebola, Malaria was number one on our list for prevention.”
During a World Malaria Day event outside the command’s headquarters in Stuttgart April 24, medical professionals from Ramsey’s division shared their expertise with service members and civilians, some who will travel to Africa in the future.
Ramsey said that the low rate of Malaria infections during Operation United Assistance - less than .1 percent - was an indicator that the overwhelming majority of troops took all necessary precautions to prevent infection.
Air Force Maj. Antonio Leonardi, an epidemiologist and public health care officer with AFRICOM, said one of the biggest issues with Malaria is that it can take anywhere from weeks to years for the infected to show symptoms.
That the disease can go unnoticed for so long is another reason why preventative measures are so important. Leonardi stated the Department of Defense focuses on three methods of prevention:
- Medication currently prescribed by the DoD to prevent Malaria currently includes Doxycycline and Malarone.
- DoD Uniform System
- Basically, wearing the uniform to prevent bites by keeping sleeves rolled down, tucking pants into boots and putting DEET on exposed skin.
- Bed Net
- Bed nets can keep a service member safe from mosquito bites while they sleep.
More more information about Malaria, visit AFRICOM’s Malaria page.