In the thick of the fight to unlock the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) located at Fort Detrick, MD. The USAMRIID is where the nation’s bioweapon defensive effort takes place.

Readers will remember that in August 2019, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sidelined the institute’s labs. The CDC inspected the USAMRIID level 3 and 4 laboratories in June 2019 and found them to be deficient in meeting the necessary biosafety standards. The labs were given the all clear in late-November 2019 when the CDC conducted a site inspection. The inspection was conducted by CDC’s Division of Select Agents and Toxins who assessed the labs compliance, infrastructure and biosafety standards.

The U.S. Army Medical Research & Development

U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC), of which USAMRIID is subordinate, is providing subject matter experts in coronavirus and are involved in “research, development, testing and evaluation” to the nation’s COVID-19 response. These same capabilities were critical in addressing prior coronavirus outbreaks, to include Ebola Virus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and the Zika virus.

What makes the USAMRIID unique is that it is the only U.S. military entity which is equipped to safely study highly hazardous viruses within their Biosafety Level 4 laboratory.

The USAMRDC tells us, “USAMRIID identified a novel drug with the potential to treat coronaviruses. Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) has experience studying both severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), two high-profile coronaviruses that caused deadly outbreaks. WRAIR completed the first-in-human clinical trial of a MERS vaccine, the only MERS countermeasure and only the third coronavirus vaccine ever tested. USAMRDC has conducted one of only three ever-completed clinical trials of a related coronavirus vaccine, and the only one completed for MERS.”

This know-how will be indispensable as the nation moves to find the vaccine to address COVID-19.

The difference between Isolate and Quarantine

No doubt in the coming days, weeks and months many of us will be issued orders by our medical professionals to either isolate or quarantine. When one receives this guidance the USAMRDC notes the difference in their guidance to U.S. Army personnel:

  • An isolation is the separation of an individual or group infected or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease from those who are healthy in such a place and manner to prevent the spread of the communicable disease (DODI 6200.03, Glossary G.2.).
  • A quarantine is the separation of an individual or group that has been exposed to a communicable disease, but not yet ill, from others who have not been so exposed in such a manner and place to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease (DODI 6200.03, Glossary G.2.).

The universal advice at this time is to stay safe, and keep your distance from one and other.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com

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