ARLINGTON, Va. — Sailors who remain aboard their ships during deployments to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility are now exempted from post-deployment health screening, a Navy medical official said.

Tens of thousands of sailors are expected to be affected by the change, said Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Luke, of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

Since 2003, the Navy had screened all sailors deployed to the CENTCOM AOR and areas where commanders felt there was a risk of exposure to disease, said Luke, also a medical doctor.

But the Defense Department later determined that screening program was “labor-intensive and costly,” and the risk of exposure for sailors who did not leave their ships “really wasn’t there,” Luke said.

So now sailors who do not go ashore for more than 15 days will not have to answer questions about their physical and mental health after their deployments, he said.

Individual augmentees, Seabees and Marines are unaffected by the change, Luke said.

The move comes as the Navy is planning to have all sailors undergo a mental and physical health assessment once a year that the Navy hopes will address all their health issues, he said.

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