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"Dread Iraqi Disease"

Leishmaniasis by Dave Barker, Accredited Representative Ohio AMVETS

The Assistant Secretary of Defense William Winkenwerder has issued a Memo regarding deadly conditions facing our troops in Iraq which I read October 9, 2003. This is a stern warning for all persons in Iraq to be aware of the deadly situation.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease spread by the bite of the sandfly. This is a preventable disease native to Iraq. The Assistant Secretary has asked this be given to all distribution possible. It now looks like we are going to have problems with our returnees that could be catastrophic.

One condition is cutaneous leishmaniasis Baghdad boil) which creates terrible skin lesions which may look like STD's.

This leaves permanent disfiguring. The other is visceral leishmaniasis (Kala-azar) which can be fatal. Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors Leishmania are tiny protozoa. Their parasitic life cycle includes the sandfly and an appropriate host. Humans are one of those hosts. Leishmania infection can cause skin disease (called cutaneous leishmaniasis).

It can affect the mucous membranes with a wide range of appearance, most frequently ulcers. It may cause skin lesions that resemble those of other diseases including cutaneous tuberculosis, syphilis, leprosy, skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, and fungus infections.

Leishmania can also cause systemic disease (visceral leishmaniasis) with fatal complications. When introduced into the body by the bite of a sandfly, the parasite migrates to the bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes.

Systemic infection in children usually begins suddenly with vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cough . In adults, fever for 2 weeks to 2 months is accompanied by nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness and loss of appetite Weakness increases as the disease progresses.

The skin may become grayish, dark, dry, and flaky. The parasites damage the immune system by decreasing the numbers of disease-fighting cells so death usually results from complications (such as other infections) rather than from the disease itself. Death often occurs within 2 years.

Upon separation from active duty the Iraq veterans need to contact the nearest VA Environmental Physician as soon as possible!

It seems as if the issues affecting veterans health are short lived, that is until they start dying. Then it is to late. Hopefully this time all returnees would be examined. Since it will be volunteer and since many fail to get the word, it is unlikely all will be examined in time!

As far as insecticide goes, it has been reported to me that the military has advised Iraqi Freedom troops to soak their clothes in an insecticide. At least one soldiers wife advised me her husband broke out in a severe rash. Possibly that would be a good reason, to kill the sand flies and other deadly insects.

By the way this problem was known at the time of all of the critical health issues with PGW-I veterans. The government just failed to advise those folks who were coming up with severe and deadly medical problems.

To everyone who cares, many insecticides have carcinogens causing cancer in them. I am not aware of the type of insecticide used so am only asking a question: is the prevention as bad as the disease?

I wrote In Search Of The Truth For Vietnam Combat Veterans. A book about herbicides. I certainly hope I will not have a sequel about insecticides!



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