Posted by: Jason Tudor, PAO | 21/10/2009

Task force helps GCMC ready for flu season

by Jason Tudor, GCMC Public Affairs

H1N1 reportGARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany – Preparations for an outbreak of the H1N1 strain of influenza continue behind the scenes here as students from countries worldwide seek ways to advance democratic institutions and build relationships.

 A task force created by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here is examining available logistics, medical support and operational concerns needed during an outbreak. The center, in conjunction with its supporting Army garrison, is working to mitigate an influenza outbreak.

Col. D.J. Liles, director of the H1N1 task force, said based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Defense, World Health Organization and others, the Marshall Center is on track for success.

First and foremost, Colonel Liles said, the task force is designed to ensure the readiness of military members and keep the Marshall Center running. As examples, the center started its Program in Advanced Security Studies Sept. 25 with better than 120 students from 60 countries. Also, several outreach conferences occur in locations across the globe during the height of the flu season. Finally, the Marshall Center’s language instruction school continues instruction at full speed.

“It’s up to this task force to do everything it can to protect our international student body and the employees of the center,” Colonel Liles said. “We’ve got all the right people in place. We’ve made some good decisions. Now comes the part where we take action.”

The task force’s work has been swift. That action included handing out small bottles of hand sanitizer to students, installing larger hand-sanitizing stations in locations across the Marshall Center campus, and providing instructional handouts in students’ rooms and high-traffic locations.

Employees have been provided similar measures for prevention. Dr. John P. Rose, director of the Marshall Center, also provides regular podcasts so employees know how to get vaccines, and tips to stay healthy. Dr. Rose praised the task force’s work preparing the center for a potential outbreak.

“Our plan is comprehensive. It provides a great guide should we need to implement,” Dr. Rose said in his most recent podcast. “It ties together both the local German community actions as well as those in our American military chain of command.”

To date, Marshall Center has no cases of H1N1 reported. However, Colonel Liles said a local tracking mechanism is being put in place to ensure coverage. The Defense Department tracks numbers of military people and employees who get sick and their locations.

Education is key, said Colonel Liles. Through email and posted items across the center, the task force is reinforcing hygiene and ensuring steps are taken to avoid spread of the virus. In addition, students participating in upcoming classes and conferences are receiving information from the task force.

Meanwhile, several Web sites, including flu.gov, cdc.gov and the Defense Department Pandemic Influenza Watchboard, allow people to gain a better understanding of what the world is facing in the H1N1 virus and annual flu outbreaks.

“We’re ensuring that our host-nation, the participants and their country teams understand that in the event of an outbreak, we have a handle on what do to before, during and after,” said Lt. Col. Bruce Griggs, lead planner for the task force. “This is a multifaceted challenge. We’re meeting it head on. The first step is getting people smart on how to stay healthy.”

Although the garrison and Marshall Center have no local American military medical support, Colonel Liles said the German medical community is prepared should the Americans experience a flu outbreak, including the German military medical facility in nearby Mittenwald.

“It’s another outstanding example of the German-American partnership we have here in Garmisch,” Colonel Liles said.


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