By now we’ve read about a gazillion articles about how guns don’t kill people. The problem is that sometimes people use guns to kill people. They also show a marked proclivity to use bathtubs, 2X4s, knives, cars and a plethora of other devices. Nevertheless, death is the inevitable result of the mayhem.
The other inevitable conclusion is the ages-old argument that man’s propensity to harm his fellow man is in direct proportion to his urge to improve our lot. Let’s take that argument and apply it to jetguns. For the sake of argument, I’m sure they (the military) meant well. In the famous FAST Letter of 2004, VA carefully explained that jetguns had never been proven to be the source of cross contamination via blood for many diseases such as Hepatitis C. We assume they also threw in HIV and that family of diseases as well for arguments’ purposes. What was never a bone of contention (nor mentioned) was that a clinic in Brazil had a mishap where 57 people were cross-contaminated with the hepatitis B virus. Since this was not the deadly ‘C’ variant, it was argued there was no correlation between the two (in VA’s mind). VA did make the magnanimous gesture of saying that “while it was plausible, no current evidence was available to condemn the jetgun itself”. However, that has since been refuted. Please see the Wikipedia discussion in “Concerns”. Specifically the reference to the mice and the calf.
Matters have stood at this crossroads until today. Nurse Sylvia, our resident collector of all things jetgun, today sent me what has to be the single most damning piece of evidence to date arguing for the proposition that jetguns are inherently dangerous to your health. Note the the language is couched in the same cautious ” We have no definitive proof… but” language. The major difference is the conclusion at the end of the statement: ...but since we have no conclusive proof that jetguns do not transmit blood borne viruses or have the inherent danger of cross contamination of successive subjects, we can no longer in good faith sell or service them.”
To many of us who were inoculated with these deathguns, it was patently obvious in retrospect. If standing line watching the troops in front of us bleeding after a botched inoculation was not enough evidence, the follow-on change in sterile protocols of the last twenty to thirty years would have to be the wake-up call. A visit to the dentist today is vastly different than one in 1970-90.
VA has steadfastly maintained the sterility of the jetguns were inviolate in the face of a disintegrating argument but we have never been able to unearth the actual focal moment when the CDC said “Enough!” Today that barricade fell. With the discovery of the below article, no one in good scientific standing, or in good conscience, can defend the VA’s excesses in this patently ridiculous argument. If the manufacturers of the device had no confidence in it’s sterility, that would have to be a potent argument for discontinuance of its use. And, lo, it came to pass. That was eighteen years ago.
The military, faced with a rebellion by the manufacturer (who feared a class action lawsuit), was forced to discontinue their use because they were being withdrawn by consensus as being inherently unsanitary. Add in that no new parts would be forthcoming, it signaled the death knell of the jetgun. As with most similar situations where liability is at issue, everyone was careful to couch it in language that absolved all involved in the travesty. With nothing more that a whimper, the military was forced to give up a cheap medical device and squander untold sums on brand new plastic disposable syringes and needles. Up to then, they had complained for years they could ill-afford this added expense. Suddenly they could. With the flourish of a pen, jetguns were quietly retired and nothing more was said. Nothing, that is, until the flood tide of inevitable jetgun claims that began in 1992 upon discovery that Hepatitis C was virtually incurable.
The CDC, being an adjunct of the US Government, was in a precarious position. Were they to condemn (and implicate) jetguns as being a ground zero for disease propagation, they would impugn the Military (and by extension the VA). The only way to discontinue use was with an innocuous-sounding press release that they could no longer in good conscience condone the use of the devices. This avoided the more ominous declaration of their documented danger to one’s health. All in all, it was a win-win for everyone but the former unwitting recipients. It was too late for them and there was no going back for a do over. Besides, the costs to the government (read VA) would be exorbitant. If you think that the Denver hospital is a financial fiasco, just imagine a hoard of Vets descending on their respective “Veterans Service Centers” demanding remuneration for the government’s desire to save money on inoculations fully well knowing their potential for deadly disease transmission.
With the advance of genome sequencing and the ability to determine specific genotypes, it is now possible to test all who were exposed and subsequently contaminated by a VA medical technician who was responsible for a new Typhoid Mary outbreak. With this sure knowledge, VA still assumes the stoic posture of one unconvinced by science’ ability to prove HCV’s plague potential. To cite to a position paper authored over eleven years ago that clings to the belief that Hepatitis B is far more “robust” than Hepatitis C flies in the face of medical science. It has now been determined that HCV can survive in a dried blood form at room temperature for three (3) (trois) (sam) (san)(ba) months and still be capable of infecting you.
Imagine how easy it would be to assemble a roster of Veterans from a basic training company or squadron and get a blood sample from all. Imagine two or three were/are infected with the same identical HCV genotype and they all have names that fall roughly in alphabetical order. Would that be damning enough to provoke even more studies? Would it satisfy the Veterans Administration’s high standard that the correlation between jetguns, similar genotypes and cross contamination was just a wee bit more than plausible? I doubt it. I also doubt VA will ever author, or permit to be authored, such a study under their auspices. The outcome would be nothing less that having to grant presumptive awards to any Veteran infected with HIV/HCV before December 1997.
Nevertheless, I firmly believe this document is definitive proof that the jetgun can no longer be blameless in the transmission of the HIV/HCV disease in a herd inoculation setting. In that respect, I strongly suggest that it be included in each and every claim for Hepatitis C where the jetgun is implicated as a risk factor in the transmission and/or acquisition of the disease. One thing is certain. It cannot harm the claim. Quite the contrary, if the manufacturer of the device no longer has confidence in it and is busy distancing itself from further production or servicing of the device, it can be said that there was/is a distinct danger. When they go so far as to send a registered letter, return receipt requested, showing proof of receipt to insulate themselves from litigation, you can assume their attorneys had a hand in the authorship. Furthermore, when they advise you (the military users mentioned specifically by name and location) to cease and desist with the usage, that is a very strong message only a fool would choose not to heed.
Thank you Sylvia for you perseverance. Now we have a document to point to when we hold up the jetgun and ask a VLJ if he would feel comfortable being inoculated with a sterile saline solution right after you or me. Relax, sir. I’m SVR since December 7th, 2014. Nothing to worry about. It’s merely “plausible”. There is no definitive evidence that it can transmit HCV-only HBV. Non? Mais Porquoi? Oh ye of little faith.
Here’s the cease and desist Pedojet letter and the Paris Island letter as a nice bookend to it.
Veterans ask me how they can credibly present this to a Veterans Law Judge. Assuming you have not been tarred and feathered as a drug addict or been caught in a lie about all this, you are still considered to be credible as a witness in front of the VA. You are allowed to offer lay testimony as to anything you see, hear, taste, feel or smell. This is called the Layno v. Brown codicil that permits you to discuss anything that comes to you via your five senses. You are not, however, allowed to make the next assumption that the blood of the guy ahead of you in line that was now all over the jetgun was the cause of your HCV. You can only say they injected you without wiping it off, or, if they did, they did not insure sterility. Here’s another tidbit that would blow a hole in VA’s argument. I never saw them stop the injection line and resterilize/autoclave a gun in the four times I went through-in spite of incontrovertible blood contamination. Note that this was published in 1962 so it was already well-known that cross contamination was endemic to the use of the gun. This was fully 35 years before their withdrawal from usage for the very same reason…
Onward through the fog. Happy Turkey Day.