The neglected role of the military as a disease vector:Implications for Covid-19 and for global public health policy

Claudia Chaufan, K.J. Noh

Abstract


With the development of communication and transportation technologies, increases in international trade, and mass population movements, chances of human-to-human transmission of infectious disease agents have increased, alongside the pressing need to understand their transmission mechanisms and develop effective responses to contain their spread.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, mass testing, contact tracing, isolation of confirmed cases and varying degrees of restriction on population movements have contributed to flattening the global disease curve. However, the role of military transmission in the spread of Covid-19 has been largely overlooked, not only by the military itself, but also by government officials, policymakers, and even medical professionals, despite the rich body of literature spanning at least a century providing evidence for the role of the military as a pathogen transmitter.

We call attention to this omission, offer a snapshot of the historical evidence for military-civilian transmission of infectious disease and its disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, and underscore the need to acknowledge the neglected role of the military as a disease vector for the successful design and implementation of a more equitable Covid-19 public health policy.

Keywords


Covid-19; military as pathogen transmitter; military civilian transmission of infectious disease; militarization of public health; critical public health policy

Full Text:

PDF

References


Worldometer. 2020. Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Wang, C., Horby, P. W., Hayden, F. G., & Gao, G. F. (2020). A novel coronavirus outbreak of

global health concern. The Lancet, 395(10223), 470–473. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-

(20)30185-9

Hernández, J.C. (2020, February 28). China spins coronavirus crisis, handling itself as a global

leader. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/28/world/asia/china-

coronavirus-response-propaganda.html

Schallom, R. (2020, March 21). Diary of a lockdown: What it feels like in 17 cities during the pandemic. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2020/03/21/coronavirus-lockdown-new-york-berlin-rome-cities/

Reuters. (2020, July 21). China requires negative COVID-19 tests for arriving air passengers. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-china-airlines-idUSKCN24M0JN

Global Affairs. (2020, December 17). Flying to Canada: COVID-19 testing for travellers - Travel restrictions in Canada. https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/flying-canada-checklist/covid-19-testing-travellers-coming-into-canada?utm_campaign=gac-amc-covid-20-21&utm_source=travel-covid_travel-restrictions_flying_&utm_medium=redirect&utm_content=en

Israel extends lockdown, demands all international arrivals present COVID test—Israel News—Haaretz.com. Jan. 19, 2021. Haaretz English. Retrieved March 12, 2021, from https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-extends-lockdown-demands-all-international-arrivals-present-covid-test-1.9465657

Zemke, J.N., Sanchez, J.L., Pang, J., & Gray, G.C. (2019). The double-edged sword of military response to societal disruptions: A systematic review of the evidence for military personnel as pathogen transmitters. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 220(12), 1873-1884. https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiz400

Barry J. M. (2004). The site of origin of the 1918 influenza pandemic and its public health implications. Journal of Translational Medicine, 2(1), 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5876-2-3

Shorrock, T. (2019, December 2). Welcome to the monkey house. The New Republic. https://newrepublic.com/article/155707/united-states-military-prostitution-south-korea-monkey-house

Kime, P. (2020, January 15). These military towns have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the country. Military Times. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/01/15/these-military-towns-have-the-highest-rates-of-sexually-transmitted-diseases-in-the-country/

Cohen, J. (2009, April 25). Behind the scenes: Navy researchers helped spot swine flu in the United States. Science. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2009/04/behind-scenes-navy-researchers-helped-spot-swine-flu-united-states

Zarocostas, J. (2017). Cholera outbreak in Haiti-from 2010 to today. The Lancet, 389(10086),

-2275. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31581-7

Starr, B. (2020, April 26). How the coronavirus pandemic has shaken the US military. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/25/politics/coronavirus-impact-us-military/index.html

Ismay, J. (2020, April 5). Navy captain removed from carrier tests positive for Covid-19. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/05/magazine/navy-captain-crozier-positive-coronavirus.html

Nkengasong, J.N. & W. Mankoula. (2020) Looming threat of COVID-19 infection in Africa: Act collectively, and fast. The Lancet, 395(10227), 841-842. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30464-5

Erickson, R.J. (1994). Status of forces agreements: A sharing of sovereign prerogative. Air Force Law Review, 37, 137-154. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/airfor37&i=141

World Health Organization. (2005). International Health Regulations. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/246107/9789241580496-eng.pdf;jsessionid=74BDCFFCEAA7BC89B8CBCFD0746426ED?sequence=1

Michaud, J., Moss, K., Licina, D., Waldman, R., Kamradt-Scott, A., Bartee, M., Lim, M., Williamson, J., Burkle, F., Polyak, C. S., Thomson, N., Heymann, D. L., & Lillywhite, L. (2019). Militaries and global health: peace, conflict, and disaster response. The Lancet, 393(10168), 276–286. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32838-1

Herhalt, C. (2020, April 24). Army deployed to five GTA long-term care homes ravaged by COVID-19. CTV News. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/these-are-the-five-struggling-long-term-care-homes-the-military-has-been-sent-to-help-1.4910112?cache=yes

Council of Canadians makes landmark nomination of Cuban Medical teams for Nobel Prize. (n.d.). The Council of Canadians. Retrieved March 12, 2021, from https://canadians.org/analysis/council-canadians-makes-landmark-nomination-cuban-medical-teams-nobel-prize

Barrera, J., March 30, 2020 7:51 PM ET | Last Updated:, & 2020. (2020, March 30). Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland cool to Manitoba chiefs’ request for Cuban doctors | CBC News. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/cuba-doctors-sco-freeland-1.5515416

Jenson, D., & Szabo, V. (n.d.). Cholera in Haiti and Other Caribbean Regions, 19th Century—Volume 17, Number 11—November 2011—Emerging Infectious Diseases journal—CDC. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid1711.110958

Waal, A. de. (2014, November 11). Militarizing Global Health. Boston Review. http://bostonreview.net/world/alex-de-waal-militarizing-global-health-ebola

Chaufan, C., Dutescu, I., Fekre, H., & Noh, K. J. (2020). The military as a disease vector, from the World Wars to Covid-19: A systematic review. Prospero: International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews, https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPEROFILES/188699_PRO


 

Please feel free to comment on this article:

blog comments powered by Disqus


Editorial Offices:

Department of Family and Social Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center
Bronx, New York, 10461

Asociación Latinoamericana de Medicina Social (ALAMES)/Latin American Social Medicine Association:
ALAMES, Southern Cone Region, Cassinoni 1440 – 802, CP 11200 Montevideo, Uruguay.
ALAMES, Mexico Region, San Jerónimo 70 – 1, Col. La Otra Banda, CP 01090, México, D.F.