Iraq, Afghanistan Wars Spawn New Disease

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DENVER – Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk of a new disease researchers say they have named Iraq-Afghanistan War lung injury.

Soldiers from Fort Campbell's 86th Combat Support Hospital division treat a patient during a mock exercise while members of the Vanderbilt Trauma Divison observe. Army hospital personnel will be honing their skills at Vanderbilt in a move designed to sustain the medical proficiency of support hospital soldiers. Photo by Anne Rayner

Dr. Anthony Szema of Stony Brook University Medical Center and Dr. Cecile S. Rose of National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado in Denver are leading a session at the American Thoracic Society in Denver that describes the ailment among soldiers deployed to these countries in the Middle East and Asia.

“Not only do soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan suffer serious respiratory problems at a rate seven times that of soldiers deployed elsewhere, but the respiratory issues they present with show a unique pattern of fixed obstruction in half of cases, while most of the rest are clinically reversible new-onset asthma, in addition to the rare interstitial lung disease called non-specific interstitial pneumonitis associated with inhalation of titanium and iron,” the researchers say.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans face numerous respiratory threats including: dust from the sand; smoke from burn pits; aerosolized metals and chemicals from bombs; blast overpressure or shock waves to the lung; outdoor aeroallergens such as date pollen, indoor aeroallergens such as mold aspergillus, vehicle exhaust and tobacco smoke, Rose says.

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