Afghan, U.S. airmen respond to cholera outbreak

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jamie Humphries
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Members of the Afghan air force and 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, transported physicians and medical supplies to the district of Ma'ruf in support of a cholera outbreak recently.

Five physicians from the Afghan Health Development Services were transported to the district in Zabul province where more than 70 civilians and military members in the region currently have the disease. Approximately 200 more have been exposed and have the initial symptoms.

Cholera is an infection that occurs in the small intestine and is usually transmitted by consuming contaminated drinking water, or food. Symptoms of the disease are vomiting and diarrhea and if left untreated, can lead to rapid dehydration. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cholera can be treated by oral rehydration solution, or antibiotics.

Because of the rapid infection and amount of people impacted by the outbreak, the AAF was tasked to provide support by airlifting five local physicians, chlorine to treat the water and approximately 1,300 pounds of medical equipment aboard a Mi-17 helicopter to the affected region.

After being notified, afghan air force irmen and 738th AEAG advisers began to plan their mobilization efforts. After coordinating with Regional Command South medical professionals, the team decided that none of the current patients should be moved. That critical information was passed along to aircrews and local physicians.

"The response to the cholera outbreak in Ma'ruf was an excellent example of U.S. advisers enabling the Afghan air force to redirect air assets in order to perform a higher-priority mission and provide critical assistance where it was needed most," said Maj. Eric Glasz, who is assigned to the 738th AEAG.

After planning the trip to Ma'ruf, the five physicians from Kandahar, Afghanistan, worked with 738th AEAG medical advisers to plan the evacuation of patients to Mir Wies Hospital in Kandahar City. The doctors collected chlorine and transported it to the base. According to officials, chlorine effectively kills microbial waterborne pathogens and can kill waterborne disease. Advisors from the group provided support on the plan of action but indicated the mission was Afghan led.

"The physicians were able to assess the areas needs and administer the needed medication and water treatment and lessen the effect of the outbreak," said Tech. Sgt. Steve Guillen, 738th AEAG. "The information they gathered on the mission was important in the efforts for continued support to the region. Our Afghan partners were grateful and satisfied with what they were able to achieve during the mission."

Through the efforts of Airmen in the operation's cell and medical advising role, the local physicians were transported and assisted in the effort to aid fellow Afghans.

"I feel good about the mission to Ma'ruf," said Afghan air force Maj. Azizullah, an Mi-17 instructor pilot. "It was the first time we flew there, and I am happy it was a successful and safe mission."

According to the CDC, the most recent outbreak of cholera occurred in Haiti in December of 2010.