LANDSTUHL, Germany – Nina Gruhn has never seen anything like COVID-19 before. Gruhn, a senior microbiologist in the Biological Analysis Division at Public Health Command Europe, generally spends her days analyzing specimens in a laboratory.
“My day-to-day involves doing vector-borne disease surveillance, suspected rabies cases, and food and drinking water surveillance,” said Gruhn. “We also do analysis on environmental and workplace related samples for microbiological containments.”
Gruhn had an integral role in PHCE’s involvement in the fight against the pandemic.
“Earlier this year I was tasked with setting up testing procedures and training personnel for PHCE’s COVID-19 surveillance mission,” said Gruhn.
Since May 2020, PHCE has been performing COVID-19 surveillance testing for the Army, Air Force and Navy personnel throughout the U.S. European Command footprint, with additional support to U.S. Forces in U.S. Central Command.
Surveillance testing is conducted on people who are asymptomatic, which means the individual doesn’t show any of the symptoms.
“We were the first public health lab in the Army doing this type of testing,” said Gruhn. “We’ve done more than 90,000 samples at this point.”
In the beginning of the outbreak, PHCE assisted Landstuhl Regional Medical Center with testing, but PHCE’s laboratory is better suited for a large volume of surveillance efforts. PHCE’s laboratory is an accredited full-service public health laboratory.
PHCE was able to reprioritize its mission and trained Soldiers from other specialties, such as veterinarians, food inspection specialists, and environmental health and engineering officers, to assist with the surveillance testing.
“With the surveillance testing program, we ensure critical missions can be performed, such as personnel deploying or going into a training environment,” said Gruhn. “Our results also help allow service members, civilians and families to PCS (permanent change of station) without jeopardizing the health and wellbeing of others.”
Gruhn’s position allows her to always educate herself on best practices.
“The best part of this job is that I can continually research and implement the most efficient methods to continually improve our testing capabilities here at Public Health Command Europe,” said Gruhn.
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