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www.huh?/Web Sites Tackle GI Health Issues

By Doug Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 1998 – By now, everyone in the armed forces should be aware that Iraq may harbor chemical and biological weapons or the means to build them. And it may not be the only country with such capabilities.

For DoD, it's a force protection issue. In December, the Pentagon announced a plan to mass-inoculate the armed forces against anthrax, one of the most lethal biological agents and the easiest to affix to weapons. Realizing the decision to immunize would raise many questions in the ranks and in military households, DoD decided to get the facts out through press releases and now, through a comprehensive site on the World Wide Web. (Note: Thanks to Air Force Staff Sgt. Lee Roberts, Joint Staff public affairs, for alerting us to this web site.)

To get there, go to www.defenselink.mil, click on "Highlights," then click on "More Anthrax Info." You'll get an overview of the defense immunization program and a definitive list of questions and answers about the anthrax vaccination program.

Examples:

Q. How real is the threat?

A. Very real. Our assessments of the potential offensive biological threat facing American service men and women indicates it is necessary to have a robust biological defense program today.

Q. How does the vaccine work?

A. The vaccine promotes increased resistance to anthrax by active immunization. The recipient develops protection by means of antibodies and other immune mechanisms to the bacterium following immunization.

Other questions (there are 34) deal with the immunization regime, past uses of the vaccine, and the Pentagon's plans to inoculate the entire armed forces. The effort will begin after the Army as executive agent works out logistic details for inoculating service members. One of the questions dispels the frequently expressed theory that anthrax vaccine used during the Gulf War may be a cause of reported illnesses.

An information paper available at this site also discusses the anthrax vaccine's use during the war, and a hypertext link connects directly to the Gulf War illnesses home page. Go there (www.gulflink.osd.mil) to learn more about DoD's ongoing investigation of Gulf War illnesses. GulfNEWS, the site's on-line newsletter, carries an article by Baxter Ennis on the third phase of DoD's comprehensive clinical evaluation program for Gulf War vets. At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Specialized Care Program administers a multidisciplinary treatment program addressing persistent, disabling symptoms of veterans and family members. These are symptoms that remain undiagnosed after evaluation or are unlikely to respond to specific biomedical treatments. Such symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, headaches, indigestion, skin rashes, weight gain or loss and memory problems.

The program aims to improve work performance and other activities of daily living and promote the overall well-being of its patients. For more information, visit the Gulf War Health Center's home page at www.wramc.amedd.army.mil/departments/gulfwar.If you find any of these sites interesting or helpful and want to expand your use of the Internet to get health information, use a search engine such as Yahoo or AltaVista, type in the word "health" or something more specific ("diabetes," for example). You will immediately gain access to virtually everything you ever wanted to know about your topic of choice.

Questions or comments? E-mail djgille@hq.afis.osd.mil.

NOTE: Joint Ethics Regulation (DoD 550.7-R, section 2-301) spells out legal and illegal use of federal communications resources while on the job. In general, the restrictions that guide office telephone use also govern Internet use. See your supervisor or local computer policy experts for details.

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