Skip to main content

Military Health System

Commentary: The Limited Role of Vaccines in the Prevention of Acute Gastroenteritis

Image of Illustration of drug-resistant, Shigella sp. bacteria. This is a medical illustration of drug-resistant, Shigella sp. bacteria, presented in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publication entitled, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2019 (Content provider: CDC/Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit; Photo credit: CDC/Stephanie Rossow).

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Acute gastroenteritis is associated with sudden onset of disturbances in gastrointestinal function such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal cramps, and fever. The illness typically lasts less than 2 weeks and is most commonly associated with an infectious etiology. Treatment with antibiotics and anti-motility agents may be indicated depending upon the causative infectious agent and the severity of symptoms. Acute gastroenteritis is very common and is estimated to cause 179 million cases, over 470,000 hospitalizations, and over 5,000 deaths among U.S. residents each year.1 People usually acquire the infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, or protozoa) via the ingestion of contaminated food or water or direct person-to-person contact. Although developed nations have reduced the risks of exposure to gastrointestinal pathogens by building infrastructures of sanitary systems for water distribution and sewage disposal, transmission via contaminated food and water remains common.

In military populations, the threat of gastroenteritis is enhanced when personnel are serving in field settings as part of training, deployment, or in theaters of combat. The efforts of military preventive medicine and environmental health assets focus on minimizing the risks of food-borne and waterborne disease not only in the peacetime settings of congregate housing and field training but also in the austere settings of combat. Although such preventive measures are effective, they do not prevent all gastrointestinal illness.

Immunizations provide a powerful class of defense against infectious diseases. Although vaccines protecting against at least 30 different infectious diseases have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the basis of evidence of safety and effectiveness, only 2 of those vaccines (cholera, rotavirus) offer the prospect of an immunological defense against a specific cause of gastroenteritis.2

The FDA-approved cholera vaccine is a live, orally administered vaccine that offers protection against the Vibrio cholerae O1 strain, a bacterium capable of causing gastroenteritis at the more severe end of the spectrum (i.e., cholera).3 Cholera vaccine is not a routinely administered vaccine, and no country or territory currently requires vaccination against cholera as a condition of entry for visitors. The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend cholera vaccine for individuals 18–64 years of age who reside in an area with endemic cholera or who will travel to an area that is experiencing a cholera outbreak or that has a high risk of cholera because of a humanitarian crisis.3 There are also 3 other oral vaccines for cholera that are not approved for use in the U.S. These vaccines are killed vaccines and they require 2 doses at least a week apart for full protection.3

Rotavirus-caused gastroenteritis affects nearly all children by the time they reach the age of 5 in both developed and underdeveloped regions around the world.4 The live, oral vaccine must be given in 2 or 3 doses, depending upon the brand of vaccine used. The first dose should be administered before 14 weeks and 6 days of age and the last dose by 8 months and 0 days of age. The vaccine is not indicated for adults.5

The better-recognized bacterial species associated with gastroenteritis are members of the genera Escherichia, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, Staphylococcus, Bacillus, Yersinia, and Vibrio. Except for V. cholerae, there are no vaccines for any of these bacteria. Protozoan causes of gastroenteritis are less commonly identified than the bacterial and viral causes, but there are no vaccines for the more common protozoans (i.e., Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Cyclospora). There are numerous viral causes of gastroenteritis, but the best known are the caliciviruses (including noroviruses), astroviruses, and rotaviruses. Except for the rotavirus vaccine, there are no FDA-approved vaccines to protect against the viral causes of acute gastroenteritis. It has been estimated that noroviruses are the cause of about one-third of all cases of gastroenteritis in the U.S., so an efficacious norovirus vaccine has been the subject of much research to date.6 The quest for a norovirus vaccine or vaccines has proven especially challenging because of the relatively short period of immunity following a clinically significant infection, the heterogeneity of strains of norovirus, and the inability to culture the virus in the laboratory.6 Despite these challenges, several norovirus vaccine candidates are currently being evaluated in human clinical trials, including a study of a bivalent vaccine in military recruits.7

The incidence rates of most types of acute infectious gastroenteritis are not susceptible to reduction by vaccines. The prevention of gastroenteritis (and other diseases) spread through fecal contamination of water, food, or fomites depends upon diligent implementation of the wide spectrum of measures that constitute sanitation, hygiene, environmental health, food safety, and disease surveillance. Responsibilities in these areas fall to government agencies, suppliers of food and water, educators, public health authorities, healthcare providers, parents, and individuals.

A current review of required immunizations for Department of Defense personnel by Combatant Command is available at https://health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Health-Readiness/Immunization-Healthcare/Vaccine-Recommendations/Vaccine-Recommendations-by-AOR.

Author affiliations: GDIT contracted to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch, Defense Health Agency, Silver Spring, MD (Dr. O'Donnell); Immunization Healthcare Branch, Public Health Division, Defense Health Agency, Falls Church, VA (Col Rans).

References

  1. Scallan E, Griffin PM, Angulo FJ, Tauxe RV, Hoekstra RM. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—unspecified agents. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(1):16–22.
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vaccines licensed for use in the United States. https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/vaccines/vaccines-licensed-use-united-states. Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cholera–Vibrio cholerae infection. Vaccines. https://www.cdc.gov/cholera/vaccines.html. Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.
  4. Dormitzer PR. Rotaviruses. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:1854–1864.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rotavirus vaccination: information for health care professionals. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/rotavirus/hcp/index.html. Accessed 3 Jan. 2020.
  6. O’Ryan M, Vidal R, del Canto F, Salazar JC, Montero D. Vaccines for viral and bacterial pathogens causing acute gastroenteritis: Part I: Overview, vaccines for enteric viruses and Vibrio cholerae. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2015;11(3):584–600.
  7. Mattison CP, Cardemil CV, Hall AJ. Progress on norovirus vaccine research: public health considerations and future directions. Expert Rev Vaccines. 2018;17(9):773–784.

You also may be interested in...

Ambulatory visits, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2018

Article
5/1/2019
A U.S. naval officer listens through his stethoscope to hear his patient’s lungs at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan in 2018. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps) photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron Parks)

Musculoskeletal disorders and mental health disorders accounted for more than half (52.6%) of all illness- and injury-related ambulatory encounters among active component service members in 2018. Since 2014, the number of ambulatory visits for mental health disorders has decreased, while the numbers of ambulatory visits for musculoskeletal system/connective tissue disorders, nervous system and sense organ disorders, and respiratory system disorders have increased.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Modeling Lyme Disease Host Animal Habitat Suitability, West Point, New York

Article
4/1/2019
A deer basks in the morning sun at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  (Photo Courtesy: U.S. Air Force)

As the most frequently reported vector-borne disease among active component U.S. service members, with an incidence rate of 16 cases per 100,000 person-years in 2011, Lyme disease poses both a challenge to health care providers in the Military Health System and a threat to military readiness. Spread through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, infection with the bacterial cause of Lyme disease can have lasting effects that may lead to medical discharge from the military. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is situated in a highly endemic area in New York State. To identify probable areas where West Point cadets as well as active duty service members stationed at West Point and their families might contract Lyme disease, this study used Geographic Information System mapping methods and remote sensing data to replicate an established spatial model to identify the likely habitat of a key host animal—the white-tailed deer.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Incidence, Timing, and Seasonal Patterns of Heat Illnesses During U.S. Army Basic Combat Training, 2014–2018

Article
4/1/2019
U.S. Marines participate in morning physical training during a field exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. (Photo Courtesy: U.S. Marine Corps)

Risk factors for heat illnesses (HIs) among new soldiers include exercise intensity, environmental conditions at the time of exercise, a high body mass index, and conducting initial entry training during hot and humid weather when recruits are not yet acclimated to physical exertion in heat. This study used data from the Defense Health Agency’s–Weather-Related Injury Repository to calculate rates and to describe the incidence, timing, and geographic distribution of HIs among soldiers during U.S. Army basic combat training (BCT). From 2014 through 2018, HI events occurred in 1,210 trainees during BCT, resulting in an overall rate of 3.6 per 10,000 BCT person-weeks (p-wks) (95% CI: 3.4–3.8). HI rates (cases per 10,000 BCT p-wks) varied among the 4 Army BCT sites: Fort Benning, GA (6.8); Fort Jackson, SC (4.4); Fort Sill, OK (1.8); and Fort Leonard Wood, MO (1.7). Although the highest rates ofHIs occurred at Fort Benning, recruits in all geographic areas were at risk. The highest rates of HI occurred during the peak training months of June through Sept., and over half of all HI cases affected soldiers during the first 3 weeks of BCT. Prevention of HI among BCT soldiers requires relevant training of both recruits and cadre as well as the implementation of effective preventive measures.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Update: Exertional Hyponatremia, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2003–2018

Article
4/1/2019
Drink water the day before and during physical activity or if heat is going to become a factor. (Photo Courtesy: U.S. Air Force)

From 2003 through 2018, there were 1,579 incident diagnoses of exertional hyponatremia among active component service members, for a crude overall incidence rate of 7.2 cases per 100,000 person-years (p-yrs). Compared to their respective counterparts, females, those less than 20 years old, and recruit trainees had higher overall incidence rates of exertional hyponatremia diagnoses. The overall incidence rate during the 16-year period was highest in the Marine Corps, intermediate in the Army and Air Force, and lowest in the Navy. Overall rates during the surveillance period were highest among Asian/Pacific Islander and non-Hispanic white service members and lowest among non-Hispanic black service members. Between 2003 and 2018, crude annual incidence rates of exertional hyponatremia peaked in 2010 (12.7 per 100,000 p-yrs) and then decreased to 5.3 cases per 100,000 p-yrs in 2013 before increasing in 2014 and 2015. The crude annual rate in 2018 (6.3 per 100,000 p-yrs) represented a decrease of 26.5% from 2015. Service members and their supervisors must be knowledgeable of the dangers of excessive water consumption and the prescribed limits for water intake during prolonged physical activity (e.g., field training exercises, personal fitness training, and recreational activities) in hot, humid weather.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Update: Exertional Rhabdomyolysis, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014–2018

Article
4/1/2019
U.S. Marines sprint uphill during a field training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. to maintain contact with an aviation combat element, teaching and sustaining their proficiency in setting up and maintaining communication equipment.  (Photo Courtesy: U.S. Marine Corps)

Among active component service members in 2018, there were 545 incident diagnoses of rhabdomyolysis likely due to exertional rhabdomyolysis, for an unadjusted incidence rate of 42.0 cases per 100,000 person-years. Subgroup-specific rates in 2018 were highest among males, those less than 20 years old, Asian/Pacific Islander service members, Marine Corps and Army members, and those in combat-specific or “other/unknown” occupations. During 2014–2018, crude rates of exertional rhabdomyolysis increased steadily from 2014 through 2016 after which rates declined slightly in 2017 before increasing again in 2018. Compared to service members in other race/ethnicity groups, the overall rate of exertional rhabdomyolysis was highest among non-Hispanic blacks in every year except 2018. Overall and annual rates were highest among Marine Corps members, intermediate among those in the Army, and lowest among those in the Air Force and Navy. Most cases of exertional rhabdomyolysis were diagnosed at installations that support basic combat/recruit training or major ground combat units of the Army or the Marine Corps. Medical care providers should consider exertional rhabdomyolysis in the differential diagnosis when service members (particularly recruits) present with muscular pain or swelling, limited range of motion, or the excretion of dark urine (possibly due to myoglobinuria) after strenuous physical activity, particularly in hot, humid weather.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Update: Heat Illness, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2018

Article
4/1/2019
Drink water the day before and during physical activity or if heat is going to become a factor. (Photo Courtesy: U.S. Air Force)

In 2018, there were 578 incident diagnoses of heat stroke and 2,214 incident diagnoses of heat exhaustion among active component service members. The overall crude incidence rates of heat stroke and heat exhaustion diagnoses were 0.45 cases and 1.71 cases per 1,000 person-years, respectively. In 2018, subgroup-specific rates of incident heat stroke diagnoses were highest among males and service members less than 20 years old, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Marine Corps and Army members, recruit trainees, and those in combat-specific occupations. Subgroup-specific incidence rates of heat exhaustion diagnoses in 2018 were notably higher among service members less than 20 years old, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Army and Marine Corps members, recruit trainees, and service members in combat-specific occupations. During 2014–2018, a total of 325 heat illnesses were documented among service members in Iraq and Afghanistan; 8.6% (n=28) were diagnosed as heat stroke. Commanders, small unit leaders, training cadre, and supporting medical personnel must ensure that the military members whom they supervise and support are informed about the risks, preventive countermeasures, early signs and symptoms, and first-responder actions related to heat illnesses.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Vasectomy and Vasectomy Reversals, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000–2017

Article
3/1/2019
Sperm is the male reproductive cell  Photo: iStock

During 2000–2017, a total of 170,878 active component service members underwent a first-occurring vasectomy, for a crude overall incidence rate of 8.6 cases per 1,000 person-years (p-yrs). Among the men who underwent incident vasectomy, 2.2% had another vasectomy performed during the surveillance period. Compared to their respective counterparts, the overall rates of vasectomy were highest among service men aged 30–39 years, non-Hispanic whites, married men, and those in pilot/air crew occupations. Male Air Force members had the highest overall incidence of vasectomy and men in the Marine Corps, the lowest. Crude annual vasectomy rates among service men increased slightly between 2000 and 2017. The largest increases in rates over the 18-year period occurred among service men aged 35–49 years and among men working as pilots/air crew. Among those who underwent vasectomy, 1.8% also had at least 1 vasectomy reversal during the surveillance period. The likelihood of vasectomy reversal decreased with advancing age. Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic service men were more likely than those of other race/ethnicity groups to undergo vasectomy reversals.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Testosterone Replacement Therapy Use Among Active Component Service Men, 2017

Article
3/1/2019
Image of Marines carrying a wooden log for physical fitness. Click to open a larger version of the image.

This analysis summarizes the prevalence of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) during 2017 among active component service men by demographic and military characteristics. This analysis also determines the percentage of those receiving TRT in 2017 who had an indication for receiving TRT using the 2018 American Urological Association (AUA) clinical practice guidelines. In 2017, 5,093 of 1,076,633 active component service men filled a prescription for TRT, for a period prevalence of 4.7 per 1,000 male service members. After adjustment for covariates, the prevalence of TRT use remained highest among Army members, senior enlisted members, warrant officers, non-Hispanic whites, American Indians/Alaska Natives, those in combat arms occupations, healthcare workers, those who were married, and those with other/unknown marital status. Among active component male service members who received TRT in 2017, only 44.5% met the 2018 AUA clinical practice guidelines for receiving TRT.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Brief Report: Male Infertility, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013–2017

Article
3/1/2019
Sperm is the male reproductive cell  Photo: iStock

Infertility, defined as the inability to achieve a successful pregnancy after 1 year or more of unprotected sexual intercourse or therapeutic donor insemination, affects approximately 15% of all couples. Male infertility is diagnosed when, after testing both partners, reproductive problems have been found in the male. A male factor contributes in part or whole to about 50% of cases of infertility. However, determining the true prevalence of male infertility remains elusive, as most estimates are derived from couples seeking assistive reproductive technology in tertiary care or referral centers, population-based surveys, or high-risk occupational cohorts, all of which are likely to underestimate the prevalence of the condition in the general U.S. population.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Sexually Transmitted Infections, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010–2018

Article
3/1/2019
Anopheles merus

This report summarizes incidence rates of the 5 most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among active component service members of the U.S. Armed Forces during 2010–2018. Infections with chlamydia were the most common, followed in decreasing order of frequency by infections with genital human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, genital herpes simplex virus (HSV), and syphilis. Compared to men, women had higher rates of all STIs except for syphilis. In general, compared to their respective counterparts, younger service members, non-Hispanic blacks, soldiers, and enlisted members had higher incidence rates of STIs. During the latter half of the surveillance period, the incidence of chlamydia and gonorrhea increased among both male and female service members. Rates of syphilis increased for male service members but remained relatively stable among female service members. In contrast, the incidence of genital HPV and HSV decreased among both male and female service members. Similarities to and differences from the findings of the last MSMR update on STIs are discussed.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Outbreak of Acute Respiratory Illness Associated with Adenovirus Type 4 at the U.S. Naval Academy, 2016

Article
2/1/2019
Malaria case definition

Human adenoviruses (HAdVs) are known to cause respiratory illness outbreaks at basic military training (BMT) sites. HAdV type-4 and -7 vaccines are routinely administered at enlisted BMT sites, but not at military academies. During Aug.–Sept. 2016, U.S. Naval Academy clinical staff noted an increase in students presenting with acute respiratory illness (ARI). An investigation was conducted to determine the extent and cause of the outbreak. During 22 Aug.–11 Sept. 2016, 652 clinic visits for ARI were identified using electronic health records. HAdV-4 was confirmed by real-time polymerase chain reaction assay in 18 out of 33 patient specimens collected and 1 additional HAdV case was detected from hospital records. Two HAdV-4 positive patients were treated for pneumonia including 1 hospitalized patient. Molecular analysis of 4 HAdV-4 isolates identified genome type 4a1, which is considered vaccine-preventable. Understanding the impact of HAdV in congregate settings other than enlisted BMT sites is necessary to inform discussions regarding future HAdV vaccine strategy.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Update: Incidence of Glaucoma Diagnoses, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013–2017

Article
2/1/2019
Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease that involves progressive optic nerve damage and vision loss, leading to blindness if undetected or untreated. This report describes an analysis using the Defense Medical Surveillance System to identify all active component service members with an incident diagnosis of glaucoma during the period between 2013 and 2017. The analysis identified 37,718 incident cases of glaucoma and an overall incidence rate of 5.9 cases per 1,000 person-years (p-yrs). The majority of cases (97.6%) were diagnosed at an early stage as borderline glaucoma; of these borderline cases, 2.2% progressed to open-angle glaucoma during the study period. No incident cases of absolute glaucoma, or total blindness, were identified. Rates of glaucoma were higher among non-Hispanic black (11.0 per 1,000 p-yrs), Asian/Pacific Islander (9.5), and Hispanic (6.9) service members, compared with non-Hispanic white (4.0) service members. Rates among female service members (6.6 per 1,000 p-yrs) were higher than those among male service members (5.8). Between 2013 and 2017, incidence rates of glaucoma diagnoses increased by 75.4% among all service members.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Re-evaluation of the MSMR Case Definition for Incident Cases of Malaria

Article
2/1/2019
Anopheles merus

The MSMR has been publishing the results of surveillance studies of malaria since 1995. The standard MSMR case definition uses Medical Event Reports and records of hospitalizations in counting cases of malaria. This report summarizes the performance of the standard MSMR case definition in estimating incident cases of malaria from 2015 through 2017. Also explored was the potential surveillance value of including outpatient encounters with diagnoses of malaria or positive laboratory tests for malaria in the case definition. The study corroborated the relative accuracy of the MSMR case definition in estimating malaria incidence and provided the basis for updating the case definition in 2019 to include positive laboratory tests for malaria antigen within 30 days of an outpatient diagnosis.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Update: Malaria, U.S. Armed Forces, 2018

Article
2/1/2019
Anopheles merus

Malaria infection remains an important health threat to U.S. service mem­bers who are located in endemic areas because of long-term duty assign­ments, participation in shorter-term contingency operations, or personal travel. In 2018, a total of 58 service members were diagnosed with or reported to have malaria. This represents a 65.7% increase from the 35 cases identi­fied in 2017. The relatively low numbers of cases during 2012–2018 mainly reflect decreases in cases acquired in Afghanistan, a reduction due largely to the progressive withdrawal of U.S. forces from that country. The percentage of cases of malaria caused by unspecified agents (63.8%; n=37) in 2018 was the highest during any given year of the surveillance period. The percent­age of cases identified as having been caused by Plasmodium vivax (10.3%; n=6) in 2018 was the lowest observed during the 10-year surveillance period. The percentage of malaria cases attributed to P. falciparum (25.9 %) in 2018 was similar to that observed in 2017 (25.7%), although the number of cases increased. Malaria was diagnosed at or reported from 31 different medical facilities in the U.S., Afghanistan, Italy, Germany, Djibouti, and Korea. Pro­viders of medical care to military members should be knowledgeable of and vigilant for clinical manifestations of malaria outside of endemic areas.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Thyroid Disorders, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2008–2017

Article
12/1/2018
A U.S. naval officer listens through his stethoscope to hear his patient’s lungs at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan in 2018. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps) photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron Parks)

This analysis describes the incidence and prevalence of five thyroid disorders (goiter, thyrotoxicosis, primary/not otherwise specified [NOS] hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, and other disorders of the thyroid) among active component service members between 2008 and 2017. During the 10-year surveillance period, the most common incident thyroid disorder among male and female service members was primary/NOS hypothyroidism and the least common were thyroiditis and other disorders of thyroid. Primary/NOS hypothyroidism was diagnosed among 8,641 females (incidence rate: 43.7 per 10,000 person-years [p-yrs]) and 11,656 males (incidence rate: 10.2 per 10,000 p-yrs). Overall incidence rates of all thyroid disorders were 3 to 5 times higher among females compared to males. Among both males and females, incidence of primary/NOS hypothyroidism was higher among non-Hispanic white service members compared with service members in other race/ethnicity groups. The incidence of most thyroid disorders remained stable or decreased during the surveillance period. Overall, the prevalence of most thyroid disorders increased during the first part of the surveillance period and then either decreased or leveled off.31.6 per 100,000 active component service members in 2017. Validation of ICD-9/ICD-10 diagnostic codes for MetS using the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III criteria is needed to establish the level of agreement between the two methods for identifying this condition.

Recommended Content:

Medical Surveillance Monthly Report
<< < ... 11 12 13 14 > >> 
Showing results 181 - 195 Page 13 of 14
Refine your search
Last Updated: October 19, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery