Sunday, October 03, 2004

Boot Camp Virus

The Seattle Times today has a harrowing story of how a rather common virus has gotten out of hand in boot camps across America. The Pentagon, from 1971 through 1996, had a vaccine that they used to administer to troops that all but wiped out the adenovirus in boot camps. However, in 1996, when asked to (pardon the pun) cough up $5 million to update the facility where the vaccine was made, the Pentagon balked. Instead, they tried to contract it out for $14 million and no one tried to take up the contract. Reasoning that since they hadn't seen the adenovirus in years and one base hadn't seen it in 10 years, they let the vaccine go by the wayside in 1997. Six months later, the virus began to appear again - this time in a strain that actually kills people. Within a year, the base that hadn't reported a case in 10 years, saw over 1,000 troops flood the base hospital, ill with the virus. The Pentagon authorized $35.4 million to Bayer to build a new facility and make the vaccine again. Bayer won't have it up and running until at least 2007 and maybe as late as 2009. In the meantime, military experts think that the virus may have been transmitted in some cases to civilian populations (where it exists already and presents as flu-like symptoms). It has killed at least 6 people and thousands more have become ill when the vaccine could have prevented it. On top of that, it is costing taxpayers an estimate $1 million in health care for the soldiers and re-training.

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