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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Published on Tuesday, November 25, 2003 by the New York Daily News Baghdad Boil Festers as New Enemy of G.I.s by Juan Gonzalez Iraqis call it the Baghdad Boil or Black Fever - and it's attacking American soldiers. In its most virulent form, the rare parasitic disease, known officially as Visceral Leishmaniasis, or VL, infects the kidneys and spleen and is usually fatal if left untreated. A milder form leaves ugly lesions on the skin that can lead to permanent scarring. Last month the Pentagon announced that 22 U.S. soldiers from the Middle East have come down with the milder form of the disease during the past year - 18 of them in Iraq, mostly around Baghdad and Nassiriya in the south. The others got sick in Afghanistan or Kuwait. But the number infected could be much higher than military brass is admitting, two Army medics recently returned from Iraq told the Daily News last week. "A lot of people are being medivacked for Leishmaniasis," said one medic, an Army sergeant back in the states on leave who asked not to be identified. "In briefing sessions several months ago, we were told the number of in-country cases was almost 800," he said. And the most dangerous time for catching the disease is during the month of November. According to the second medic, who also is a sergeant, some commanders are so strapped for manpower, they've started to resist shipping out all but the sickest soldiers. Pentagon officials, after revealing the first cases of the disease among U.S. troops, have banned donations of blood by G.I.s from the Middle East for at least a year after soldiers return home. "The issue with those who are exposed is that there is an incubation period before any symptoms appear," Lt. Col. Ruth Sylvester of the Armed Services Blood Program said recently. Any soldier who contracts the disease becomes a carrier and can no longer donate blood. With the mild form of the disease, multiple sores typically form on the legs, arms or face several weeks after the victim is bitten by an infected sand fly. Those sores can persist for years if not treated and eventually form scabs that leave ugly scars. Those struck by the virulent form typically experience high fever, weight loss and an enlarged spleen and liver. Soldiers with confirmed cases are being shipped to Walter Reed Medical Center, where they are treated for at least three weeks with intravenous drugs. Leishmaniasis is prevalent throughout Southwest Asia and Africa, with about 1.5 million people infected each year, but Iraq has seen increased outbreaks of the virulent form of the disease in recent years. In August, the World Health Organization warned of "a sharp increase of Visceral Leishmaniasis in various parts of the country." During the first Persian Gulf War, where far more U.S. soldiers were deployed than in Iraq, 32 cases of Leishmaniasis were reported, 12 of them the acute form of the disease. But those troops spent much of their time in unpopulated areas of the desert during the coolest part of the year, and they dedicated considerable time to eradicating mosquitoes and flies. In Iraq, on the other hand, the troops have spent much time in cities in unbearable heat, amid a population that has seen basic sanitary systems decimated. Iraq's cities have become a breeding ground for disease. It may take years before we know the toll Leishmaniasis and other diseases have taken on U.S. soldiers. Juan Gonzalez is a Daily News columnist. Email: email@example.com © 2003 Daily News, L.P. ### _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk