办事指南

Emerging diseases : Sick platoon syndrome - Dangerous infections lurk everywhere, from military boot camps to bowls of salad. Nell Boyce reports from the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, Georgia

点击量:   时间:2017-04-13 02:01:13

By Nell Boyce Atlanta A SHORTAGE of vaccine against a severe cold virus could compromise the defence of the US, military officials warn. Within a year, the Army and Navy will run out of a vaccine that protects personnel from a virus that can lay low troops undergoing the rigours of basic training. At the emerging diseases conference, Army and Navy researchers reported that they had seen the first sustained outbreak of respiratory disease caused by adenovirus type 4 for more than 25 years. This produces fever and other cold symptoms, and used to surface often in training camps. “We’ve never really understood what sets this off,” says Joel Gaydos of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington DC, although he suspects that the cramped quarters and physical stress of training are to blame. Before 1971, when the military started vaccinating troops, up to 10 per cent of the trainees at a base could be in hospital with the virus. The vaccine’s manufacturer, Wyeth of Marietta, Pennsylvania, told the Department of Defense in the mid-1980s that it was stopping production. The last batches were made in 1996. But the military never got a new supplier, and stockpiles are running out. Training camps are now conserving stocks by vaccinating only sporadically—and outbreaks have already started. One outbreak at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the Army’s largest basic training centre, was monitored from April to December 1997, and virus samples were cultured from 1140 trainees sent to hospital with respiratory problems. Overall, 752 tested positive for the virus. When vaccinations resumed, the number of new cases fell dramatically. “Things can get bad very quickly,” warns Gaydos. “Respiratory disease could shut down a basic training post.” While the Army has several training centres, the Navy has only one main training centre, in Great Lakes, Illinois. So the virus could undermine America’s naval defence. Military personnel say that they will have to resort to old-fashioned methods of disease prevention, like hanging up sheets between bunks. “We are fearful that we may have to go for several years without a vaccine,” says Colonel Kevin McNeill, chief of preventive medicine at the Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Fort Gordon,