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Logistical Challenges for Infection Prevention in the Military

February 14, 2024by Global Ozone

We’ve all had infection prevention on our minds for the past few years, military leadership included. Aboard Navy ships and on military bases around the world, soldiers get sick from preventable illnesses, putting them out of commission, or worse. 

While there have long been infection prevention protocols in the military, the emergence of COVID-19 revealed serious, difficult to address cracks in their disease control program.

Why is infection prevention important?

Historically, infection prevention has presented a logistical and tactical nightmare for the military. During World War I, the influenza pandemic killed around 45,000 American soldiers, which is almost as many as the actual combat casualties (50,000). These deaths not only represent a loss of military force but also millions of unnecessary and tragic losses for American families. 

Thanks to the expansion of modern medicine (especially the discovery of antibiotics), we no  longer see soldiers dying of disease on such a catastrophic scale. But, our military still struggles with the logistical challenges of infection prevention, resulting in a higher incidence of MRSA, Staph, and other contagious diseases among military members. With antibiotic resistance on the rise, it’s time to make strides to improve our infection prevention strategies everywhere, especially in military facilities. 

How do soldiers contract diseases? 

Just like in the general population, service members can easily spread the flu, COVID-19, colds, strep throat, and other common illnesses from person to person while at work. But close quarters while living in barracks or deployed can exacerbate the issue, resulting in higher incidence of disease among members of the military

The biggest threat is MRSA. MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant strain of staph that infects cuts and open wounds and can eventually spread to the bloodstream, resulting in hospitalizations, amputations, and even death. Due to close quarters, physical contact, and shared supplies, researchers have noted that service members are twice as likely to carry MRSA. Unfortunately, soldiers with MRSA infections are also more likely to be misdiagnosed with spider bites or other environmental irritants. When left untreated, a severe or life-threatening case of MRSA is more likely.

There is also the issue of nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections. Diseases like MRSA are common in treatment environments and can cause significant complications for already injured soldiers. At medical treatment facilities abroad, there are limitations to the infection control measures caused by team turnover and undertraining, resulting in more care-acquired infections among soldiers. 

Logistical Challenges 

There are many challenges to infection prevention in deployed soldiers’ living facilities. While the military has laid out standard practices and procedures to control the spread of disease, like proper hand hygiene, vaccine schedules, and disease surveillance, things can get a bit … hectic. While dealing with military objectives and carrying out operations, these practices can often slip to the wayside, resulting in a higher risk of infection for soldiers — who will then be sent to a medical treatment facility. 

It’s difficult to manage deployed teams at medical treatment facilities and to maintain standards across multiple facilities. While most treatment centers have infection control officers on-site, about 20% of medical facilities have no one leading the charge on disease prevention. And even at facilities with infection control officers, over half of them do not receive any training before deployment. We trust that these officers are doing their best with what they have — but they can only do so much without thorough training. 

There’s also the issue of turnover. We’re grateful to our military for their sacrifices, and we obviously can’t expect deployed teams to stay overseas forever. As teams turnover and new medical facility workers arrive, there can be a loss of infection control knowledge and a shift in levels of training and of hand hygiene. 

A New Way to Prevent Infections on Base

Medical facilities, ships, and military bases need permanent (but also mobile) solutions to their infection control struggles. 

Introducing Decon Zone. It’s a simple but effective sanitizing system that completely disinfects military gear in just 32 minutes, without causing any damage to protective materials. Using the power of ozone, Decon Zone kills bacteria, viruses, fungi, and molds that lurk on your gear using the power of ozone, a sanitizing agent more powerful than bleach. 

Need something with more capacity? Ask about our Decon Zone trailers to see if they’re the right fit for your team. We hope we can help you protect the protectors. Find out more about Decon Zone today.