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BHR Medical Department Plays Critical Role In Operation Unified Assistance

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050110-09
Release Date: 1/10/2005 11:20:00 PM

By Journalist 1st Class Robert Dylewski, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- In support of Operation Unified Assistance, USS Bonhomme Richard's (BHR) (LHD 6) medical department prepared enough medical supplies in January to run a clinic for two weeks on the disaster stricken Indonesian island of Sumatra.

BHR's medical professionals also gathered a month's worth of non-perishables to distribute in the most inaccessible areas of the island.

According to BHR Senior Medical Officer Lt. Cmdr. Sara L. Saltzstein, her department is prepared to use its resources to sustain life and relieve suffering for tsunami victims.

While the department is preparing to provide humanitarian assistance, BHR's preventative medical technicians (PMT) have been readying more than 300 Sailors to go ashore by updating their immunizations and educating them on disease prevention.

"It's important that our Sailors and Marines are up-to-date on their immunizations," said Saltzstein. "There are a lot of diseases endemic to this area of the world. If our Sailors and Marines get sick, it can seriously impact operational readiness."

"We are all Sailors first, then hospital corpsmen, and finally preventive medicine technicians. We need to take care of each other," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Darnell D. Mason, one of the BHR's preventive medicine technicians. "We don't want anybody getting sick with malaria or the Japanese encephalitis virus, which is transferred by mosquitoes."

Since flooding and stagnant water creates favorable conditions for mosquitoes to breed, uniforms were treated with repellent by the PMTs to help prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and scrub typhus. They also conducted training on the prevention of food and water borne diseases.

Bonhomme Richard is currently deployed as the Expeditionary Strike Group 5 flagship, conducting humanitarian relief operations off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

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