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News | Aug. 27, 2020

378 EMEDS improve COVID detection, response

By Staff Sgt. Cary Smith 378th AEW/PA

The 378th Expeditionary Medical Squadron recently installed new COVID-19 test equipment at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The BioFire Diagnostics System increases the medical staff’s capability to identify possible COVID-19 cases on base by producing results within an hour.

As the Coronavirus Disease - 2019 is still a global threat, the new testing equipment allows the 378th EMEDS to respond quicker to possible positive cases and take preventative measures to ensure the virus does not spread.

“Before, we would send possible positive COVID patients to the PSAB hospital on a different section of the Saudi Arabian base and await test results that could take up to six days,” said Maj. Salinas, 378th EMEDS chief of medical staff.

Salinas added potential health risks were involved with transporting patients requiring testing to the hospital. Without knowing if someone was positive for COVID, medical and transport personnel would have to take extra precautions to prevent a potential spread of the virus.

“Next, we were able to take samples from ill persons here and send the samples to the PSAB hospital,” said Salinas. “We would remove these individuals from the general population and place them in an isolation tent, located in a quarantined section of base, while we awaited test results from the hospital.”

This isolation within an isolation provided further safeguards from possible spreading of COVID.

The medical staff benefited from the ability to send a swab to the hospital because the team could isolate a stable patient without having to send the member for evaluation. Also, this process decreased the transport team’s exposure to the patient. The patient would still be isolated for approximately six days until the results returned. In addition, their contacts would have been quarantined as well, removing them from general population awaiting test results.

“The BioFire expedites our care of patients and helps identify positive cases sooner,” said Salinas. “This gives us more time to understand what equipment we may need to use, such as ventilators, or to plan for a medical evacuation.”

The testing equipment uses the sample taken from the patient and detects any evidence of Coronavirus DNA while the member is isolated.

For Maj. Simmons, 378th EMEDS Public Health officer, COVID-19 is still a risk to military operations and members here should take every precaution to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We always need to be mindful of our interactions as there are people who go in and out of the base and move to and from this location,” said Maj. Simmons. “When the base population is not used to seeing positive COVID cases on the installation, it’s easy for them to forget the threat, but we must be more vigilant and take the appropriate precautions to protect people. The best way to prevent COVID-19 from spreading is to follow simple guidelines.”

  • Wear a cloth face covering when you can’t maintain social distancing (≥ 6 feet)
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick; DON’T go to work if you’re sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Practice social distancing (≥ 6 feet); avoid crowded places where it’s difficult to maintain distancing
  • Wash hands with soap & water for at least 20 seconds

Prince Sultan Air Base will continue to be a location to offer agile combat employment for the U.S. and its partners to maintain air superiority against any threat and deter hostile actions in the region. To do this, our members will continue to fight the spread of COVID-19 and remain healthy to complete the mission.