Friday, April 24, 2009
Given the reports of the possibility of a swine flu epidemic, it is interesting to note that last time there was a significant outbreak of a new form of swine flu in the U.S. it originated at the army base at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Hundreds of soldiers on the base, mostly recruits, were infected without becoming ill in 1976.
President Gerald Ford immediately ordered a nationwide vaccination program.
More than 40 million people were vaccinated. However, the program was stopped short after over 500 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a severe paralyzing nerve disease, were reported. 30 people died as a direct result of the vaccinations.
Unanswered questions regarding the outbreak remain to this day. According to a CDC investigation, It is not known why the virus did not extend beyond basic trainees or beyond the military base. The source of the virus, the exact time of its introduction into Fort Dix, and factors limiting its spread and duration remain unknown.