Shore Sailor Stricken By Navy’s First Case of Scurvy In 150 Years
KINGS BAY, GA — A sailor on shore duty has contracted scurvy, military health officials said Sunday. It marks the Navy’s first recorded case of the disease since the Civil War.
Last week, Electronics Technician 1st Class Kevin Jurgensen reported to King's Bay Branch Health Clinic complaining of lethargy, bleeding from his gums, and spots on his skin.
"We initially diagnosed [Jurgensen] with a sexually transmitted disease," said Captain Jack Gutierrez, the attending physician. "99 times out of a hundred, when a sailor has lesions, unexplained bleeding from mucous membranes, fever—well, you know."
The actual cause of Jurgensen's condition turned out to be scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C in the diet.
Jurgensen said the diagnosis was as surprising to him as to the doctors.
"Ever since I moved off base, I stopped eating at the galley," he said. "Vegetables fucking suck so I don't eat them. I thought I was drinking enough coffee to make up for it."
Scurvy was once common in the world's navies, especially between the 14th and 16th centuries, when ships' crews were fed only non-perishable foods lacking vitamins and nutrients. The disease became significantly less common after foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus juice, were added to sailors' diets.
Kings Bay physicians said they were initially startled to discover Jurgensen had the rare disease, until they began asking him about his diet.
"His eating was very similar to how sea voyagers ate in the age of sail," Gutierrez said. "He told us he ate salted meats, like Slim Jims and shoppette hot dogs, and preserved starches, like cheese crackers and Combos, along with a lot of beer and cheap wine. It's a diet Blackbeard himself would be proud of."
Doctors instructed Jurgensen to drink a full can of Monster Energy Drink daily.
"One can of Monster contains 200 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C," Gutierrez said. "I first told him simply to eat an orange every day, but he turned his face up and pouted. The energy drink seems to be suitable to him."
Jurgensen is expected to make a full recovery.
The Navy has already taken steps to prevent the disease from spreading. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has ordered that all sailors be issued limes as mandatory personal protective equipment.
Additionally, since doctors speculate that Jurgensen would have avoided the disease had he drank even one rum- or tequila-based drink with lime in it, the Navy has started a $38 million advertising campaign encouraging sailors to drink more tropical alcoholic mixed drinks.
"We just want sailors to make healthier choices when they go out drinking, like choosing a margarita over a vodka tonic," Gutierrez explained, "or a Corona with a lime in it instead of a Sam Adams."
The U.S. Navy's last case of scurvy was recorded in 1863, when a body-conscious sailor starved himself for over 7 weeks to fit into his dress blues.