An official history from the Army provides some intriguing information about blood supplies that may provide hints about why certain HCV strains are prevalent in Vietnam veterans–and why hepatitis C is endemic in Vietnam veterans.
Source of the quotes below: http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/vietnam/medicalsupport/chapter9.html
First, the need for blood:
“As troop strength grew and combat casualties increased, the task of distributing whole blood, plasma, and related products in South Vietnam developed into the largest blood distribution system ever undertaken by a single organization.”
“…requirements for whole blood would climb slowly but steadily from less than 100 units per month in 1965 to 8,000 units by February 1966, skyrocket to more than 30,000 units per month by 1968, peak at 38,000 units in February 1969, and fall rapidly to less than 15,000 units by mid-1970.”
At first, blood sources came from Asian donors and military donors.
“The primary source for whole blood used in South Vietnam until July 1966 was the 406th Medical Laboratory in Japan. Mobile bleeding teams were dispatched from the laboratory to donor resources in Japan, Korea, Okinawa, and Taiwan. A very valuable donor resource was found in the Yokosuka Naval Base when the Pacific fleet came in, and reserve donor resources also existed in Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines. With vigorous command support and the dedicated work of blood-drawing teams, supply kept pace with demand until June 1966. Blood collections in PACOM rose from 201 units in January 1965 to 7,426 in January 1966 and 12,984 in June 1966.”
Then came a big change. Blood was collected by 42 donor U. S. military centers designated by The Surgeons General of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and shipped by air to Asia.
Only American military personnel (and military-related persons) donate blood to American forces in Vietnam.
“For the first time in U.S. military history, every unit of whole blood used to support the war was donated free of charge by military personnel, their dependents, and civilians employed at military installations.
Donors were not motivated by profit. No high-pressure advertising programs were permitted, yet nearly a million and a half volunteers gave blood. Not once was it necessary to initiate contracts for blood to be supplied by the American Red Cross or the American Association of Blood Banks. Even in the most difficult times, when blood requirements reached 38,000 units a month, the civilian blood collection system was not upset by the additional military requirements to support an ongoing war.”
1. First Asian blood > transfused into injured American forces in Vietnam.
2. Then only American military personnel blood (and related persons)> transfused into injured American forces in Vietnam.
My lay theory: Transfusion-based chains of blood-borne infections occurred because after 1966, the system became, please excuse this word, incestuous, since no military-related civilians were donors. It was a closed system.