Just as parents are concerned about the health and safety of their children, leaders within the Air Force care about the well-being of Airmen. Negligence with personal health not only affects individuals, but it also puts everyone around them at risk.
One of the key factors in preventing the spread of viruses or infections is education. The 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron has a number of sections geared to keeping Ramstein healthy, including an epidemiology office.
“Epidemiology is the study of health-related conditions and incidents that occur in a specific population,” said Tech. Sgt. Jessica Roofe, 86 AMDS NCO in charge of epidemiology. “We use this data to determine if there are any spikes in the community related to any foodborne illness, increases in flu-like symptoms or other disease outbreaks. For example, we can identify a foodborne outbreak is occurring if a large group of people from the same squadron come in sick with the same symptoms after eating at a potluck.”
Once an outbreak has been identified, the epidemiology office reaches out to the squadron or individuals to inform them of procedures for preventing further spread of the illness.
“If people are sick, they cannot do their job,” said Airman 1st Class Brian Voelker, 86 AMDS public health technician. “If they cannot do their job, planes might not go up, which affects the mission.”
In an effort to prevent spikes in illnesses from occurring, the epidemiology team conducts educational outreach. This includes education on influenza at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center during the flu season, good handwashing techniques, briefings at commander’s calls and more.
The office also tracks the spread of sexually transmitted infections. They provide briefings at the First Term Airman Center and local high schools to provide information to Airmen and students on safe practices. The office also encourages members to receive screenings.
“In regards to STI screening, it is 100 percent confidential,” Roofe said. “Some patients may not feel comfortable coming to us regarding certain situations. They think everything discussed will end up in their record, and it doesn’t.”
The epidemiology team also deals with animal bites, Lyme disease surveillance and Zika outbreaks. Germany is currently considered rabies free except for wild bats, Roofe said.
KMC members can bring ticks found on themselves to the office and the insect will be sent for testing. The office also discusses the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease with the individual.
Other programs provided are for latent tuberculosis infection, medical employee health and bloodborne pathogen. These include testing and education within the respective program.
The 86 AMDS epidemiology office can be reached at 479-2086 or 06371-46-2086. Their office has walk-in hours Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“We have the best job in the Air Force because we have the opportunity to help others and educate the population,” Roofe said. “We are here to help prevent the spread of disease and to ensure the Ramstein mission continues day in and day out.”
With knowledge and expertise ranging from Lyme disease to tuberculosis, the 86 AMDS epidemiology office keeps a watch over Ramstein so its members can remain healthy and fit to fight.