Navy ships are the definition of a self-contained environment. Naval carriers, though, are the definition of an isolated village in the middle of nowhere. Holding anywhere from 3,600 to 5,000 members at a given time an aircraft carrier would be the perfect environment to test the spread of disease, and the reactions society on a small-scale would have. Colds, flu’s, respiratory infections, diarrhea, vomits, stress-induced heart attacks, pneumonia, and yet, none of these are as dreaded as Gastroenteritis, which is the combination of uncontrollable diarrhea, vomits, pain, and fever (affectionately known as the double-dragon sickness) which affects a portion of the ship’s population every deployment. Absolutely no sailor would ever want to get it and none wish it upon their worst enemies. But, what is it that makes the double-dragon the scariest part of serving aboard a ship? It’s the fact that Gastroenteritis is extremely contagious!
It’s easy to get sick on a ship
I’ve spoken in the past about how easily becoming sick is while aboard a ship. Recently I had the displeasure of witnessing my entire berthing being incapacitated for a single day. This event was a terrible reminder of how vulnerable sailors are when exposed to close proximity environments. Even though we sailors are out here protecting the interests of the country and the president, the most diminutive of threats (bacteria) can still topple us down. This becomes even more terrifying for the healthy sailors as they see the number of members affected starts rising uncontrollably. Afterward, the realization that you yourself might become the next victim becomes an inevitable possibility. What happened next was the material from which nightmares are crafted.
The horror of double-dragon sickness
The heads (bathrooms) were packed with sailors who were on the floor crying because they couldn’t stop puking and vomiting on themselves. Toilets, floors, sinks were covered in half-digested food and bile from those sailors who didn’t have anything left in their stomachs. Medical emergencies were being called throughout the ship as some sailors were evacuated from their berthing from dehydration and malnourishment. The only “safe” place in the ship (a sailor’s rack) was no longer a comfortable place as the aches and pains of the body took over. Medical was doing their best handing out medicine to sailors who need it and giving sick-in-quarters (SIQ) chits to others, and finally interning into sick bay those who were doing the worst. But, space in the sick bay is limited and only a percentage of the crew is allowed to be SIQ at any given moment. The numbers were too high to help everyone; as such, it fell upon the Leading Petty Officers to give their sailors rest time as their bodies recovered. It was only 24-48 hours, but for some sailors, they felt never ending…
Once the double-dragon sickness settles
Thankfully, the double-dragon ran its course and once the dust had settled, everyone was back to work like normal. Events like these are rather common in the Navy. It’s not surprising in the least when ships come back to port and everyone’s kids’ start catching the strange variety of diseases the sailors brought back with them. For some civilians, this might seem a bit disgusting, but for sailors, it’s just a part of normal life. Surviving in the Navy is similar to surviving in a quarantine zone, the only hope you have is catching the non-lethal variety of whatever is in the air.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.