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100 Troops in Iraq War Get Pneumonia

The cases, which 'do not exceed expectations,' will be examined, Army says. Two have died.

August 02, 2003|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — About 100 members of the U.S. military serving in the Iraq conflict have contracted pneumonia, and two of them have died, officials said Friday.

Lt. Gen. James Peake, the Army's surgeon general, has sent two doctors and four other experts to Iraq and two more doctors to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where some of the troops have been flown for treatment, officials said.

"It is pneumonia. The question is what is the cause," said Lyn Kukral, spokeswoman for Peake and the Army Medical Command.

Fifteen of the cases were serious enough to require ventilators, Peake's office said. Two of those soldiers died, 10 recovered, and three remained hospitalized as of Friday, Kukral said. Most were in the Army, but at least one was a Marine.

The team on its way to Iraq includes infectious-disease experts, laboratory officers and people who will take samples of soil, water and air.

So far, officials have identified no infectious agent common to all the cases. Officials said there was no evidence that any of the cases were caused by exposure to chemical or biological weapons, environmental toxins or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Nor was there any mention of Gulf War Syndrome, a variety of illnesses reported by troops who served before or during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Tens of thousands of those veterans have complained of ailments including chronic pain, fatigue and memory loss.

The two teams, searching for similarities among the cases, will review patient records and laboratory results and interview health workers and patients, if possible, Peake and the U.S. Army Medical Command said.

The cases have hit troops in many different locations and from different units. They also were spread over time.

Armywide, pneumonia cases serious enough to warrant hospitalization happen in about 9 of 10,000 soldiers a year.

Given the number of troops deployed, the 100 cases "do not exceed expectations," the surgeon general's office said. Kukral said the cases may turn out to be unrelated.

Most of the cases were in Iraq and occurred after the U.S.-led invasion began March 20, Kukral said.

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