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New communicable disease network helps BiH, SFOR

By Sgt. Kerensa Hardy
First published in
SFOR Informer#115, June 13, 2001

Camp Butmir After a few months of planning, a new system has been established to keep tabs on possible outbreaks of diseases in BiH.
The communicable disease surveillance system was the idea of German Dr. (Navy Capt.) Wolfgang Kattwinkel, former CJMED chief.
"When I came here in December, the situation was such that SFOR had no idea what was going on in this country concerning diseases. So the only sources we could use were quite unsafe," he said. One of the initial main goals was to work with the local community to help SFOR gain knowledge about epidemiological issues.
"Epidemiology is the collecting of disease data to look at it, to take knowledge from it and to be able to react to it," Kattwinkel explained.
The project began by building working groups with the ministries of health in the Federation and Republica Srpska. After the ministers granted permission, the first meeting was held, called the Epidemiological Round Table, where all those involved attended - Public Health Institute directors, university epidemiological health officers, doctors and health ministers from the Federation, the RS and the District of Brcko.

Disease
Tuzla
Sarajevo
Banja Luka
Trebinje
Tuberculosis
21
15
18
0
Meningitis
1
0
0
0
Scabies
8
37
8
2
Influenza
105
189
2,883
475
Lyme Disease
0
0
1
0


This is a sampling from the March communicable diseases bulletin.

"We finally agreed on a bulletin that would be forwarded by SFOR that would have all the epidemiological data of the Federation, the RS and Brcko on one sheet of paper," Kattwinkel said.
The formal agreement was signed May 22, after being in the works for about four months. Bulletins for March and April have been distributed. The final arrangement stated that the Federation, the District of Brcko and the RS would report monthly summaries of 60 communicable diseases within their respective areas of responsibility to CJMED. CJMED will then forward one document with all the combined findings in the form of a monthly bulletin to all parties.
The bulletin will also be forwarded to the multinational divisions and battle groups so that they're aware of potential health hazards.
This effort has proven to be beneficial to all involved and has established an invaluable network in the medical arena.
"I think that there are two benefits," said Maj. Tom Delk, theatre Preventive Medicine officer. "The first benefit is the fact that the governments haven't been talking to each other since the hostilities began. This is really one of the few opportunities where we have (all of them) all sitting together in one room, agreeing on sharing information and consolidating this information onto one piece of paper, and then allowing everybody to look at this."
The other benefit, Delk said, is since diseases have no boundaries, it is necessary for everyone to be apprised when epidemics strike a certain area. "This gives everybody a (chance) to prepare for what's going to occur. If (one area) knows there's an outbreak of chickenpox across their borders they can start notifying their population, their hospitals and let them know that this may become a potential problem in the coming weeks and they can be ready to battle it."
Delk explained that SFOR is affected - directly or indirectly - by everything that happens in this country. So if SFOR is aware of an epidemic in the country, there's always that chance that soldiers will be affected by the disease. This allows SFOR to take preventative measures to protect its personnel.
"All our soldiers move around, they are not living in the barracks only, but they are in the country so they are exposed to the environment and it's always good if you know what's going on in that environment," Kattwinkel said. "The thing that BiH (gets) is a common bulletin. In the last years they had nothing like that. It's a very small flower that needs lots of water and sun to make it grow further and not dry out."
Delk added, "We're doing everything we can to have (people in this country) start working together again this is one other chance for us to increase the harmony within this country."

Related link: SFOR at Work