The American Legion sponsored a free HCV screening in Vermont last week according to the Burlington Free Press (Link). Information on the HCV-jet injector connection is given in the announcement along with this graphic.
“Military veterans are five times more likely than the general population to develop this disease, which attacks the liver, according to UVM Medical Center. Hepatitis C kills more than 1 million Americans every year.
Dr. Doris Strader, a hepatologist and gastroenterologist at UVM Medical Center, said Hepatitis C is a virus, and is asymptomatic, meaning the majority of people who are afflicted are unaware they have the disease.
“People do not get sick and as a result can have the virus for 20 or 30 years,” Strader said. “Patients suffer chronic inflammation of the liver and scarring that can lead to cancer.”
People born between 1945 and 1965 are at increased risk for developing Hepatitis C, for “unclear reasons,” Strader said. Vietnam veterans are particularly at risk. Hepatitis C is contracted from exposure to blood. In addition to the risks of combat, veterans were exposed to multiuser vaccination guns that could lead to infection.
Strader explained that veterans would line up in a row to be vaccinated one after the other with the same gun, creating the possibility of being exposed to someone else’s blood. “Nowadays everybody gets a separate vaccination,” Strader said. “Back in the day there were less than sterile practices.”
It seems like more than a stroke of good luck that I read this article today because I have a “new patient” appointment with Dr. Strader this week. I need to discuss my own health issues with the good doctor but I also will tell her about my jet injector–a gift courtesy of the Graham family–and interest in this topic. Perhaps she knows someone who might be willing to help us develop research questions, or study designs that will eventually help us get the impartial scientific statistical and/or experimental evidence we need to understand all the major risk factors/exposures that led to the remarkable and tragic HCV epidemic among the veteran population. It would also be advantageous to obtain unpublished studies which must exist in government archives.