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Pentagon issues coronavirus guidance to service members

The Pentagon has issued guidance to its personnel and service members aimed at preventing the possible spread of the new, deadly coronavirus.

The memorandum, issued Thursday and released to the public on Friday, tells forces how to recognize the signs and symptoms of the virus, officially known as 2019-nCov, and of the precautions they should take.

“The Department of Defense continues to work closely with our interagency partners as we monitor the situation and protect our service members and their families, which is my highest priority,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement accompanying the directive.  

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The memo follows guidance already issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with personnel advised to avoid all nonessential travel to China and to seek medical care if they recently returned from the country in the last 14 days and are showing signs of sickness.

At least 200 people have died and more than 7,000 have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in China, where the virus was first discovered in the city of Wuhan.

The World Health Organization on Thursday called the virus’s spread a public health emergency of international concern, with more than 100 cases in other countries.

At least six people have been diagnosed in the U.S. so far, and on Thursday the State Department issued a travel advisory warning citizens not to travel to China amid the outbreak.

In addition, the State Department last week ordered all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and their family members to evacuate Wuhan.

Esper notes that the commanders of individually affected geographic commands will be issuing specific guidance to their forces.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs is also working with the Joint Staff and other leaders to identify possible additional screening needs for Pentagon personnel or service members at ports of entry, according to the memo.

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