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                                         09-91, NO. 2
Week ending 1 March 1991

AFMIC WEEKLY MEDICAL
INTELLIGENCE WIRE

IRAQ: Collateral Damage From Air Raid On
Chemical Warfare (CW) Plant 

In an open source news release, an Egyptian physician claimed that 
100 guards at a CW plant in Baghdad became ill "immediately" 
following a coalition air raid on the facility. Reportedly, the 
patients "sustained injuries of the lungs, the circulatory and 
intestinal systems." The guards were brought to an undisclosed 
hospital, where half of them died despite medical efforts. The 
Egyptian physician stated that attempts to "disinfect the hospital 
were unsucccssful and the infection was spreading in Baghdad." 
Additionally, the physician said that disease incidence was 
significantly increasing ("assuming a massive charactcr, to the 
point of an epidemic") in cities where othcr air raids had 
targeted chemical and biological warfare (CBW) facilities.

Comment:  The news release attempts to correlate both the sudden 
illness/deaths of the guards and the spread of disease among 
civilians with coalition targeting of CBW facilities. However, 
until this report is independently confirmed, this incident should 
not be interpreted as a consequence of contamination resulting 
from coalition targeting of CBW facilities.

Although the facility is described as a CW plant, the symptoms 
described are not consistent with chemical warfare agents. For 
example, chemical agents such as mustard produce severe injuries 
to the eyes and skin, and nerve gases produce obvious neurologic 
symptoms. Furthermore, chemical warfare agents are not contagious.

An immediate onset of "disease" is consistent with a toxin agent. 
We have assessed that Iraq has weaponizod botulinum toxin and 
suspect that they have developed Staphyloccccal enterotoxin and 
Clostridium perfringens toxin. A massive dose of a toxin such as 
Staphylococcal enterotoxin B is somewhat consistent with the 
general symptomology and cannot be ruled out as a possible cause 
of the "disease." However, the extremely limited clinical 
information ("injuries of the lungs, circulatory system and 
intestinal systems") also could suggest an infectious agent such 
as Bacillus anthracis if the "immediate" (meaning virtually no 
delay) onset of symptoms is analytically disregarded. The 
background information and general symptomology are not fully 
consistent with any single biological warfare (BW) agent believed 
to be possessed by Iraq. Efforts have been made to obtain further 
details of the alleged incident to determine the identity of the 
possible agent or agents.



                                         09-91, NO. 2

Without further verification of the hospital and cause of 
illnesses in the facility, the reference to unsuccessful attempts 
to disinfect the hospital may reflect problems in controlling 
nosocomial infections.  Nosocomial infections, which generally 
involve strains of microorganisms that are resistant to 
disinfectants and antibiotics, pose problems in all hospitals.  
However, these infections are more difficult to control in less 
developed countries, particularlly in hospitals with poor 
sanitation and housekeeping practices.

Prior to 16 January 1991, the Iraqi government broadcast several 
public civil defense preparation statements.  The language used in 
some of the public health statements would allow the government to 
blame increases of endemic diseases (that are not biological 
warfare candidates) on military conflict and potentially on 
contamination by agents released as a result of damage inflicted 
by coalition forccs on CBW facilities. The reported increased 
incidence of diseases in cities where CBW facilities were targeted 
most likely is due to increased occurrence of endemic diseases 
attributable to degradation of normal preventive medicine, waste 
disposal, water purification and distribution, electricity, and 
decreased ability to control disease outbreaks. It is unlikely 
that CBW contamination of civilian casualties would "spread" 
throughout the community over a period of time. BW casualties 
resulting from primary exposure generally are not contagious, and 
the agent infrequently would be secondarily transmitted to anothcr 
person.

Because of the current worldwide attention associated with the 
possibility of CBW agent use in the Gulf region, AFMIC believes 
that significantly more detailed reporting would result if the 
above scenario actually transpircd. This viewpoint is supported by 
a recent DIA assessment which concluded that there have been no 
confirmed reports of collateral contamination as a result of 
coalition air strikes on biological and chemical research, 
production, or storage facilities.

[   (b)(2)   ][   (b)(6)   ]
 



 

 



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