SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FOR BASE, N.C. --
Some Service members stand on the front lines of danger, shielding the American people from adversaries, and some have a more subtle, yet significant, approach to ensuring the safety of our nation.
Somewhere in that mix, public health specialists work to defend military members and surrounding communities from the many diseases and illnesses we face daily.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 19 million newly acquired sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and infections (STI) occur each year in the United States, half of which are from people ages 15 to 24. Taking the CDC's statistics into account, along with Military One Source's report of approximately 43 percent of active duty military members falling into that age-range, 4th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health specialists have their disease-preventing work cut out for them.
In 2012, there were approximately 50 cases Chlamydia and less than 20 of Gonorrhea and "other" STIs reported at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base; statistics which have decreased more than 50 percent since 2010.
In an effort to continue to decrease those figures, public health specialists serve as consultants on disease prevention, education and control programs.
"The rank group at the highest risk for contracting an STD is airman basic through senior airman," said Senior Airman Kenji Scouton, 4th AMDS Public Health technician. "We provide STI education briefings to groups such as first-term Airmen educational for that exact reason."
As part of fulfilling their mission, specialists meet quarterly with members of the Wayne County Health Department to discuss current statistics in the local community.
"We interview infected individuals for (a list of) their sexual partners and notify (those people) to get tested and prevent further infection of others," Scouton explained. "Many people are asymptomatic, meaning they never develop signs or symptoms and never know they have the infection, which can cause more severe problems."
Scouton affirmed that the best method of prevention is a person who is knowledgeable about STDs and STIs.
The following information is provided by the CDC for preventing the spread of STIs and STDs:
- Be aware of basic information about STIs: how diseases are spread, how to ensure protection and what treatment options are available.
- Abstinence is the most reliable way to avoid infection.
- Vaccinations are safe, effective ways to prevent hepatitis B and HPV.
- Have an honest and mutually monogamous relationship with one person who has agreed to be sexually active only with you.
- Get tested.
- Correct and consistent use of the male latex condom reduces STD transmission.
If a Department of Defense card holder thinks they may have contracted an STD, they should contact public health specialists at (919) 722-1172 to be tested and, if need be, treated. Positive patients require a 90-day follow-up lab testing.
Whether a person thinks they have a disease or infection, or is simply curious about prevention methods, contact public health specialists.