Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

"Tasmanian Swine Flu"

As the media and Vice President hysterically flog calmly discuss the new Swine Flu "epidemic", us Submariners can think back to the times that horrible diseases swept through our boats. (As all Submariners know, there's no place more conducive to the spread of disease that the close confines of a submarine underway.)

Back on the good ship USS Topeka (SSN 754) during our '92-'93 WestPac/Arabian Gulf deployment, we had a last liberty call in Hobart, Tasmania -- in my opinion, the absolute best liberty port in the world, because the people genuinely liked American Sailors. We picked up a new crew member and headed towards home via the realm of the Golden Shellback. Since we had an ORSE scheduled prior to our return to port, we planned to spend the whole transit working up for the inspection. Unfortunately, the new crew member had brought aboard what we ended up dubbing the "Tasmanian Swine Flu" -- a really virulent form of the dreaded "double-header disease" (the one where you're puking and crapping liquid simultaneously and violently) and it spread through the crew quickly. We were lucky that we never ended up with only one person at a watchstation; it had you down for about three days, and about a third of the crew was off the watchbill with it at any time, but we always had enough people to stay port and starboard. Our CO, "He Who Must Not Be Named", somehow used his powers of Evil to stave off the disease until the deployment was over, at the cost of coming down with a 10 day version of it as soon as we returned to port.

What horrible / humorous epidemics have you experienced on a submarine?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Middle 70s, FBM patrols from Holy Loch. It still amazes me how healthy the crew was. Over seven patrols, there was not a single instance where I missed a watch due to being ill. Except for one guy getting blue balls and having to be helo-vac'd, I do not remember anyone else becomming ill enough to miss even a single watch.

Since SSNs hit more ports, maybe those crews had more opportunities to pick up bugs than FBM crews.

5/01/2009 8:33 AM

Blogger Navy Blue Cougar said...

It was not on a submarine, but on a submarine tender that we were hit with a bad bug. The USS Frank Cable had picked up some riders from the east coast for an RCPE, basically a radiological controls only ORSE.

Within a few days of the riders coming aboard, I woke up with an overwhelming urge to puke. I went to the head and ended up stuck there all night, purging through both ends. I went to sick call the next morning and was put in bed with an IV to rehydrate me. Several other rad-con techs were there as well.

We ended up with about half of the RCT's on bed-rest with the flu. Since the show must go on, a major radiological controls drill and several evolutions were performed with only half the rad con techs available for action.

As far as my times on submarines go, three fast boat tours and a boomer tour, I rarely got sick. Must have been all the fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of sleep, and plenty of fresh air that kept us healthy.

5/01/2009 8:59 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Was right after I reported to TOPEKA, so must have been RIMPAC 2000. Same scanario: about 70% of the crew had the "double-header" thing going on. If you only had one or the other, you were considered good enough to stand watch. We were port and re-port. Crew was walking around with trash bags tied to their belts just in case they needed a barf bag. Doc had anybody who was good enough to stand watch disinfecting the boat when they got off watch.

I think we were the rabbit for the exercise, and we were at PD most of the time. I was one of the fortunate ones who felt fine, but I hadn't qualified anything at that point, so I was pretty much full-time JOOW. OOD and JOOD were both feeling miserable and were relieving each other every 15 minutes to go explode from one end or the other, so it was pretty much just me and the FTOW on the scope for hours and hours and hours... I clearly remember the CO getting on the RACS and telling the other boat that we were at 30% manning but we'd do what we could to support.

5/01/2009 9:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 2003 on the (C)harlotte the "double headed disease" was dubbed Charbolla. I was one of the early cases and had it right before the ship stationed the maneuvering watch.

Seeing how we were in port for a while before this we had a lot of nubs on board. As I spread the rumor that we were going to be quarantined off Honolulu until everyone got better, a nub asked Charlie Oscar during Eng Dept training if it was true... All he said was "Yup" and promptly left the training.

We still pulled in on time, but a lot of nubs were heartbroken.

5/01/2009 9:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the mid 70's, my chief called anything that wouldn't wash off " the Philipine Fall Apart." Covered a lot of submarine ailments.

5/01/2009 9:40 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

In mid sixties on SEADRAGON, the flu ripped through the ship during a WESPAC. I just remember spending four days in bed after the Corpsman discovered I had a 103 feaver while on watch in Maneuvering. The gentle corpsman woke me up daily for a butt shot of penicillian. My memory says about one third of the crew was down at any one time. AFter two weeks it was gone and all was well. Corpsman had to restock on antibiotics at the next port call.

5/01/2009 11:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My boat went to Fiji in 1998, and a couple of the crew got Dengue Fever, one from a mosquito bite by his eye that swelled to the size of a golf ball.

It didn't spread, and those guys were in some serious pain.

5/01/2009 1:02 PM

Anonymous Veemann said...

The Tasmanian Swine Flu ranks number two to when I had Chicken Pox on my next boat. Pox result of exposure to future mother-in-law who had a case of the shingles - nobody more surprised than me that you could get Pox that way.

Got underway on the first and only Sunday that I can ever recall while not deployed and I was feeling a little "off." After a rough night I went to the corpsman who immediately asked me if I had ever had the dreaded Pox. Ended up spending next day quarantined in my stateroom with 15 charts taped up on every spare surface so I could approve the ever changing Socal daily water space assignments.

Medevac via tug to Jeep Cherokee to airplane to ambulance to Balboa where they stuck me in a room with no phone in a time before crackberries. Eventually they called my S.O. - living together, not yet married, no official status - to come and retrieve my sorry shell from the depths of Balboa. Spent the next week on the recliner primarily on a Tylenol diet.

One year later, almost to the day, said S.O. became spouse. Sister could not make it due to her own case of Chicken Pox. Joel ended up being a stag groomsman and mother-in-law suggested I thank her for the exposure. Nice...

5/01/2009 1:26 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

We are having troubling figuring out what stage the nation is in with the "National Strategy Pandemic influenza". The stage of WHO and national plan don't match up at all...they don't even have the correct revision of the plan on the Homeland security flu web page. We believe Homeland Security and the CDC declares what stage we are in... now stage 5...we believe we are in the highest stage according to the plan. All the other agencies of government are keyed to this declaration. It looks like the stage level is classified.

I know we are in a WHO stage 5...and the USA has declared a "national health emergency"...but all levels of government actions are keyed off a official 'National Strategy For Pandemic influenza" stage level...the CDC or Homeland Security.

It is just interesting how confused we have become?

5/01/2009 2:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two words: head lice. Guy in the top rack spread 'em to his rack mates and the bottom rack.

5/01/2009 2:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Mike Mulligan chimes in again with another meaningless post.

Another minute of my life I will never get back.

5/01/2009 2:53 PM

Anonymous Jeff Lee said...

On the Hampton, we had our share of bad bugs and the crud, but what stands out most in my mind is the one time we went underway for five weeks and spent three of those weeks without any hand soap whatsoever. Supply had messed things up, and none of the heads had soap at the sinks. It was pretty disgusting to think about 150 guys not washing their hands properly after using the head, and touching everything on the boat. Of course, everyone was getting sick. Par for the course.

5/01/2009 3:12 PM

Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

1. Left Thailand, within 2 days whole crew goes through -double header-. Some brain surgeon says food poisoning...uh, nope, just a bug.

2. Departed Japan for ops, wicked head cold/flu goes through crew and delivers fun filled phlegm for 2 weeks.

3. About 10 days before each ORSE as Eng, the assist guys come on board with new bugs. #1 hacking through ORSE. #2 hoarse through ORSE. #3 completely mute. Good thing I never said much during observed drills.

5/01/2009 4:56 PM

Blogger blunoz said...

On HELENA during our 2003 deployment, our port call in Singapore was canceled due to fear of SARS. We had a port call in Saipan instead. After we left Saipan, a substantial majority of the crew came down with what we called SARS - Saipan Accute Respiratory Syndrome. At one point I was one of two qualified OODs who were well enough to stand the watch and did some port-and-starboard for a day or two.

After we got back from deployment, we saw an article in the news that the guy in charge of the water system in Saipan was thrown in jail for falsifying the sanitization records of the water system.

5/01/2009 7:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...



That it all.

5/01/2009 7:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel's Quote: "Off topic, if you just ignore the troll, it makes it easier for me to delete his posts when I get home from work. I hesitate to do so when it would make normal commenter's comments look dumb when they aren't relating to comments that exist anymore."

Mikey's posts consistently have absolutely nothing to do with any topic presented here. Everyone wants to see his posts deleted.

Any poster here who calls Mikey on his BS, always posts directly to Mikey. I'm willing to lay odds that not too many people will complain if their follow up posts directed to Mikey are erased along with Mikey's.

5/01/2009 8:07 PM

Blogger Bigbill said...

I never experienced any rampant virus on the boats, mostly because I was on a T-hull and the 683. We left Bangor and returned to Bangor. After my defection to the surface world nine years ago today, I have experienced it several times. During OEF, journalists would fly onto the ship from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Usually there was some stomach virus that followed that would affect about half the crew for a week or so. I only had it once, but it took a full on sprint after getting relieved as EOOW to prevent an embarassing incident.

When we deployed for OIF, we got smallpox vaccines. I don't remember it being that bad as a kid but as an adult, it was a hit and run fever that lasted for two weeks.

5/01/2009 10:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats "Charlie" anon, delete all referring to Mikey.

My two cents bubblehead, just do it!!

Keep a zero bubble......


5/01/2009 10:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While standing EO a day or so into a SoCal short run in the late 80s, the watch messenger showed up in Maneuvering telling me that I needed to get a relief and go see the Doc. No one in Maneuvering, me included, had any idea what was up. So, off I go to Doc’s humble office just forward of Crew’s Mess. In the office is a solemn faced Doc along with my roommate who had a shit-eating grin plastered on his face. To make a long story short, roomie had gone down to TJ, hooked up with some local talent, and unbeknownst to him, brought along some stowaways. Bad part was another E-divver and I were hot racking with Studly. I lost ALL of my clothes, bedding, etc. for the remainder of the run and was forced to use a product called Kwell Cream (sp?) for preventive measures. Fortunately the critters never migrated from roomie.

5/01/2009 11:04 PM

Anonymous SJV said...

I don't have any source on this, but I remember a story about a boat going through the ditch and the non-order guys all getting some sort of food poisoning from the initiation. The ditch being a kind of rare event, it was most of the crew. Didn't have enough to man the watchstations, had to port and shutdown. CO relieved.

Anyone hear of it, or is this a sea story?

5/02/2009 8:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed that TOPEKA WestPac because I broke my leg a few weeks before the deployment. I'll add "Missing the Tasmanian Swine Flu" to "Getting out from under He Who Must Not Be Named" as to why that injury was really a blessing.

5/02/2009 1:41 PM

Anonymous Kolohe said...

A few years ago a boat that went up to the alaskan acoustic facility left a few people off during range ops (which is routine). They went on a salmon fishing charter (also routine). And brought some back (still routine - at least at the time). But then some guys wound up making a late night snack of 'salmon sushi' (*not* routine).

What followed was the grossest medical advice request message I have ever read. It still gives me the heebie jeebies thinking about it.

Basically, the sailors that ate the raw fish wound up getting tapeworms or something like that, and the little beasties in turn wound up finding their own 'exit strategy'

5/02/2009 2:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got only a light dose of the swin flu, missed no watch at all. (slept on my orse eoow princess kickout.)

Tasmania was a great place. Where else do you get the traditional lemon margerita and sleep on a bench in sdb's.

5/02/2009 6:16 PM

Blogger scada said...

I was non SSN-667. Usually all of the guys who had families would head to sea sick. The second week all of us single guys would catch it. By the 3rd week we would all be well until we pulled into a foreign port.

I ended up getting the trots from the water in Naples (that port is digusting).

One thing my boat did have was an epidemic of kidney stones. I was hot racking and port and starboard ERLL with a shipmate that got a kidney stone. Doc put him on bed rest. I ended up port and report with no bunk to crash in for about 3 days.

5/03/2009 6:26 AM


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