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Public Health continues mission: COVID-19 prevention

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Lilly Walkup, 31st Medical Group Public Health technician, answers a phone call March 17, 2020, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The Public Health office has dedicated 2,850 man hours and counting to combat COVID-19, with close to 3,000 screenings conducted throughout the wing. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Senior Airman Kevin Sommer Giron)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Lilly Walkup, 31st Medical Group Public Health technician, answers a phone call March 17, 2020, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The Public Health office has dedicated 2,850 man hours and counting to combat COVID-19, with close to 3,000 screenings conducted throughout the wing. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Senior Airman Kevin Sommer Giron)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy. --

A new adversary has appeared globally; a respiratory illness caused by a novel strand of Coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Since February, the 31st Medical Group Public Health office has shifted their focus to administering screening calls and advising Aviano Air Base community members on preventive measures to help reduce the risk of contracting the novel Coronavirus.

“Our mission in the Public Health office is to prevent the spread of disease and make sure our population stays healthy,” said Maj. Ulises Atilano, 31st MDG Public Health flight commander.

Given the COVID-19 situation, the 31st MDG Public Health office recommends individuals with flu-like symptoms stay home. It’s also advised to take other preventative measures like social distancing, hand washing, and proper cough etiquette.

“Our office advises the caller [during a screening] and routes the appropriate cases up to a provider for the final determination,” said Airman 1st Class Amanda King, 31st MDG Public Health technician. “We also call and keep updated records of people put in isolation or quarantine.”

Keeping updated records helps the office keep track of Team Aviano’s health status.

“Our biggest line of effort is calling all patients under quarantine and isolation on a daily basis,” said Atilano. “We call them every day to see how they’re doing, if any symptoms may have arisen and if they have any other issues they may like to elevate [to a provider].”

The Public Health office has dedicated 2,850 man hours and counting to combat COVID-19, with close to 3,000 screenings conducted throughout the wing.

Initial changes to the office hours were substantial, said Atilano, but Public Health has been able to organize multiple shifts to mitigate the long hours and increased workload.

“We had to come up with new processes to quickly update medical records and calls, while also being able to maintain the high call volume,” said King.

Airmen from the 31st MDG are adapting to ongoing circumstances and encourage members to do their part in helping to ensure the safety and health of the community.

“Prevention is the key to stopping COVID-19, and we need everyone on board,” said Atilano. “If a member believes they may have been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 or if they are experiencing signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19, we definitely want them to call us.”

For questions or concerns, Public Health is available daily, from 7 am. to 6 p.m. at 0434-30-3998.