Anthrax Online: Straight Shooting from DoDBy Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service 25 Nov 98 WASHINGTON -- Are DoD's mandatory anthrax inoculations really safe? Why is anthrax suddenly such a big deal? Why doesn't DoD make the shots optional and let each of us decide for ourselves what protection we need? If you've asked any of these questions, you are in good company, because many service members have since May. That's when Defense Secretary William Cohen made the anthrax vaccinations mandatory. You can find out why and answers to many other questions at "Countering the Anthrax Threat," a new Web site highlighted on "DefenseLink," DoD's Internet home page at http://www.defenselink.mil/ or go directly to http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/Anthrax. The Web site developers said they had only one audience in mind: service members and their families. By replacing medical jargon with straightforward language and using strong visuals, the developers felt they could make it much easier to understand the purpose of the anthrax immunization program and why it is so important to force protection. "We think the site is both informative and 'eye-friendly,'" said one of the developers. "We included an easy-to-follow site index so service members can quickly find answers to their questions on a range of topics including the immunization sequence and the vaccine's safety record. Whenever possible we've also included compelling graphics and images to make sure the deadly reality of anthrax comes across loud and clear." The site provides a range of features. One section called "Facts vs. Myths" addresses common misconceptions about the disease, the vaccine and the immunization program. Another section gives a historical overview of anthrax. For instance, the disease is thought to be the fifth plague of seven visited on Egypt in the time of Moses, about 1500 B.C. The deadly disease was called the "Black Bane" during the Middle Ages. Rear Adm. Michael Cowan, medical readiness director for the Joint Staff, called anthrax the "poor man's atom bomb" and increasingly the weapon of choice of rogue nations and transnational terrorists. That's why DoD made the vaccination program mandatory, he said. "By immunizing our force, we are immunizing ourselves against an 'atomic' bomb." If you have questions or comments about the information contained at this Web site, forward them to DoD online at http://www.defenselink.mil/faq/comment.html.