No Cerveza... No Trabajo
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Where's my beer?
So much for weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. The cause is considered weapons of mass destruction grown legally in the US.
Smoking Cited in Iraq Pneumonia Cases
Tue Sep 9, 7:09 PM ET Add U.S. National - AP to My Yahoo!
By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Most of the soldiers in and around Iraq (news - web sites) with unexplained, severe pneumonia had taken up smoking shortly before falling ill, military medical authorities said Tuesday.
The military is investigating 19 cases of severe pneumonia since March, including two fatalities. Four of those cases were linked to bacterial infections. Of the remaining 15, 10 patients, including the two who died, had elevated levels of a certain type of white blood cells.
Nine of the 10 reported they had started smoking recently, said Col. Bob DeFraites, a top Army medical officer. It's unclear whether smoking caused or contributed to the pneumonia, but since tobacco smoke damages lungs, it's a chief suspect, DeFraites said.
"It may be a combination of the desert deployment with heat and dust and everything else in conjunction with the smoking," DeFraites told reporters in a telephone conference call. "It's not a coincidence, the association with smoking. ... It's a known irritant for lungs and a known risk factor for pneumonia in general. It may be sensitizing the lungs for the pneumonia."
DeFraites and other military officials said the military has not seen an unusual number of pneumonia cases but was investigating the 19 illnesses because they were so severe, requiring the patients to be put on ventilators to help them breathe. All 17 survivors have fully recovered and are out of the hospital, DeFraites said.
Army Sgt. Michael L. Tosto, 24, a tank driver from Apex, N.C., died June 17 from pneumonia that developed rapidly and killed him before he was airlifted from Baghdad to Germany. Spc. Joshua M. Neusche, 20, of Montreal, Mo., died July 12 in Germany after falling ill in Iraq.
Of the 19 affected troops, 13 got sick in Iraq, three in Kuwait and one each in Qatar, Uzbekistan and Djibouti, DeFraites said. The 18 men and one woman included 17 Army soldiers, one Navy sailor and one Marine.
The four soldiers with suspected infections included two with pneumococcal infections, one with a disease known as "Q fever" and one with a bacterium called acinetobacter baumannii, DeFraites said. All three bacteria are common causes of pneumonia.
It's not surprising that no clear clues to the cause have been found in five of the pneumonia cases, since the same can be said for many cases in the civilian health care system, DeFraites said.
"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we weren't able to come down with a definite cause and effect relationship for each of these cases," DeFraites said. "I hope we can, but I wouldn't be surprised if we ran a bit short."
Military authorities have ruled out some causes. There's no evidence of the SARS (news - web sites) virus or parasitic infections, for example. There's also no evidence indicating that vaccinations against smallpox or anthrax were the cause, said Col. John Grabenstein, deputy director of the military vaccine office.
One of the most significant findings is that 10 of the sickened troops had high levels of white blood cells called eosinophils. Those immune system cells are associated with a wide range of conditions, including allergies and parasitic infections.
Levels of eosinophils in the 10 soldiers ranged from three times to 11 times higher than normal, DeFraites said.
In the patients with pneumonia, doctors believe that something — possibly the cigarette smoke — irritated the lung cells, causing the eosinophils to come and cause inflammation. That caused pneumonia, the medical name for fluid filling up the lungs.