Military in Europe addressing swine flu
Stars and Stripes November 19, 2009
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Military doctors and commanders have taken to the airwaves and have held town hall meetings to address concerns and questions about the swine flu and the vaccine to treat the illness.
More than 1,000 servicemembers, dependents and Defense Department civilians in Europe have been diagnosed with H1N1, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Cooper, told listeners to an American Forces Network call-in show Wednesday. Cooper is the U.S. public health service officer assigned to U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine Europe.
Still, the rates here are much lower than the States: less than one-half of 1 percent of the 225,000 personnel and dependents in Europe have been diagnosed with the swine flu, compared to about 7.2 percent, or 22 million, of the U.S. population, Cooper said. Tracking swine flu illnesses is not an exact science, however, because people with mild symptoms and others may not seek medical help, and doctors aren’t testing everyone, he said.
During the radio show, a handful of callers questioned the safety of the vaccine, which arrived in Europe this week, because they thought the Food and Drug Administration rushed it through the approval process.
"The H1N1 vaccine is just as safe as the seasonal influenza vaccine," said Army Col. Theresa Moser, the director of Europe Regional Medical Command Force Health Protection.
She called the quick production of the H1N1 a success story, but medical experts admitted that the vaccine is hard to come by.
It is only being administered to servicemembers and people who are at risk, such as pregnant women, people with blood disorders, diabetes and other ailments.
It’s unclear when the vaccine will be available to anyone else who wants it, ERMC spokesman Phil Tegtmeier said.
In addition to the call-in show, commanders in Heidelberg, Germany, and Naples, Italy, discussed the swine flu with community members during town hall meetings this week.
For more information about the H1N1 virus, visit these Web sites