Pacific Ocean (NNS) -- The preventive medicine (PREVMED) department aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) continues to work behind the scenes to keep Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12) participants healthy, Aug. 20.
Members assigned to PREVMED are responsible for water testing, food service inspections, occupational safety, industrial-hazard monitoring, pest control and helping to prevent the spread of disease aboard Mercy.
"We notice trends before people get sick and we help try to avoid these trends," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eder Valle Hernandez, a PREVMED technician. "We live in a close environment, so a lot of people can get sick because things spread so quickly on the ship."
Valle Hernandez said the biggest focus of PREVMED is education and disease prevention.
"A lot of people don't know what to do to stop the spread of certain diseases," he said. "So we educate on what causes them to spread and how to stop it like washing their hands more often, taking their medication and keeping spaces clean throughout the ship."
Lt. j.g. Jeff Vorwald said occupational safety and health is another large part of PREVMED's responsibility.
"We inspect the occupational safety and health of more than 1,100 people that are involved in the PP12 mission," he said. "Since we got underway in May, we have done exposure evaluations for things like heat stress as well as test for noise and chemical hazards."
Vorwald said safety is the number one concern throughout the ship, especially at the end of a mission.
"What we do is everything we can to keep the crew safe," he said. "If people are overexposed to anything, it is our job to refer them to physicians to get whatever treatment they need."
Valle Hernandez said much of what PREVMED does isn't always seen by the public eye.
"We do all of our inspections, such as berthing, galley, water and ice inspections all the time to make sure we keep people safe and stay behind the scenes," he said.
PREVMED played a large role in keeping PP12 participants safe throughout the mission by curbing the spread of airborne and food borne illnesses throughout the mission to keep the crew mission ready.
Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission U.S. military, host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies designed to build stronger relationships and disaster response capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.
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