June 2, 2020 / 5:36 PM / a month ago

Timely screening, isolation helped U.S. Air Force base contain coronavirus

(Reuters) - Measures taken at a U.S. Air Force base in Texas to curb the spread of the coronavirus resulted less than one percent of its population becoming infected over seven weeks between March and April, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

Timely screening, rapid isolation of suspected cases and social distancing enforced at the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland helped keep COVID-19 cases low despite the presence of more than 10,000 trainees from across the country living and training together, according to the study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Between March 1 and April 18, a total of 10,579 trainees were at the base, including 4,073 (39%) who arrived during those seven weeks. Around 3% of the trainees met criteria for testing and just five were positive for COVID-19, including three who were in contact with the first patient, the CDC report found.

After the first confirmed case, the training schedule was shortened from 8.5 to 7 weeks, access to the base was limited to essential personnel, and it stopped accepting recruits from areas of the United States with high community coronavirus transmission, reducing incoming trainees by around 40%.

The researchers noted that the interventions preventing spread of the virus were implemented in a structured and sufficiently resourced military base, and may not be easily transferable to other settings.

Furthermore, the study did not take into account the potential prevalence of asymptomatic infection in a young, otherwise healthy population with few underlying medical conditions.

Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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