Jet Injectors = Jet Infectors
January 9, 2016
In a draft document titled, Department of Veterans Affairs: Hepatitis C Infection and Drug Therapy, dated July 25, 2014, the VA estimates “there could be approximately another 42,000 HCV patients who have not yet been tested.” This figure was reported again last May in a Newsweek article. Mind you this comes two-years after the CDC heavily encouraged all baby boomers to be tested for hepatitis C and heavily advertised the following recognized risk factors of injection drug use, blood transfusion and organ transplant before 1992, receiving clotting factor concentrates before 1987, being a hemodialysis patient, being a healthcare worker, being HIV positive, having signs or symptoms of liver disease, and being a child born to a HCV positive mother. Additional risk factors identified by the VA include: tattoos, acupuncture, engaging in high-risk sexual behavior, having a venereal disease, and being in jail more than 48 hours.
If 42,000 veterans do not fit into the risk factors recognized by the CDC and VA, then why would they think to be tested? Presumably, because these veterans, like my father and like many other veterans across this great nation, do not conform to those risk factors. For many veterans their only risk was their military vaccinations via jet injection. Recognizing this as a high risk factor for hepatitis C will help identify and treat these 42,000 veterans who are unknowingly living with hepatitis C.
Epidemiological studies conducted by the VA have attempted to disprove a nexus between jet injectors and hepatitis C. However these studies by Dominitz and colleagues (2005) and Briggs and colleagues (2001) consisted of flaws and therefore are unreliable and invalid.
Boscarino and colleagues (2014) conducted a study titled, “Risk Factors for Hepatitis C Infection Among Vietnam Era Veterans Versus Nonveterans: Results from the Chronic Hepatitis Cohort Study (CHeCS).” Like Dominitz and Briggs’ studies, Boscarino had patients fill-out questionnaires to identify HCV risk factors. Boscarino assessed 526 veterans with HCV (see article Flawed VA Studies on Hepatitis C Risk Factors).
Boscarino’s study implicated the jet injector as a risk factor amongst veterans. “Among veterans reporting ‘other’ exposures, the reason for this was primarily due to veterans reporting exposure to vaccinations or shots in the military.”
Boscarino further stated,
Vaccinations in the military during the Vietnam War era were often done with pneumatic air-guns, en masse, during military induction and prior to overseas deployments. Typically, service members received multiple injections as they moved through these vaccination lines. Given this vaccination method, it was not uncommon for veterans to be bleeding by the time they reached the end of the line.
The researcher stated,
it is noteworthy that neither history of drug abuse treatment nor history of injection drug use was associated with Vietnam era veteran status…studies related to the prevalence of risk factors for HCV among veterans may be biased [hence, referring to Dominitz and Briggs’ studies]. While our findings are not conclusive and may reflect recall, response, and/or sampling biases, they may justify the need for additional research. It is important to stress that the military service exposure findings found for the Vietnam era veterans was not part of our original survey design, but emerged from the coding and analysis of open-ended responses after survey completion.
In a 2018 news article, Boscarino had reiterated his study’s findings. “What we found was that Vietnam veterans, contrary to urban legend, have actually lower rates of drug abuse than their cohorts that are non-veterans.” Boscarino also divulged that “[he] himself was immunized with the jet gun. As an epidemiologist, he said the gun’s role in spreading hepatitis C is still an open question” (Harris, 2018).
- (Boscarino et al., 2014) Boscarino JA, Sitarik A, Gordon SC, Rupp LB, Nerenz DR, Vijayadeva V, Schmidt MA, Henkle E, Lu M. Risk factors for hepatitis C infection among Vietnam era veterans versus nonveterans: results from the chronic hepatitis cohort study (CHeCS). J Community Health. 29 March 2014.
- (Briggs et al., 2001) Briggs ME, Baker C, Hall R, Gaziano JM, Gagnon D, Bzowej N, and TL Wright. Prevalence and risk factor for hepatitis C virus infection in an urban Veterans Administration medical center. Hepatology 2001, 34:1200-1205.
- (Dominitz et al., 2005) Dominitz JA, Boyko EJ, Koepsell TD, Heagerty PJ, Maynard C, Sporleder JL, Stenhouse A, Kling MA, Hrushesky W, Zeilman C, Sontag S, Shah N, Ona F, Anand B, Subik M, Imperiale TF, Nakhle S, Ho SB, Bini EJ, Lockhart B, Ahmad J, Sasaki A, van der Linden B, Toro D, Martinez-Souss J, Huilgol V, Eisen S, Young KA. Elevated prevalence of hepatitis C infection in users of United States veterans medical centers. Hepatology. 2005 Jan;41(1):88-96.
- (Harris, 2018) Sarah Harris. Hepatitis C is More Common in Vietnam Vets, But Nobody is Sure Why. WUSF Public Media. 13 April 2018. Accessible at: https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/2018-03-13/hepatitis-c-is-more-common-in-vietnam-vets-but-nobody-is-sure-why.