GulfLINK banner
Site Map | Search | Contact Us
Case Narratives
Environmental Exposure Reports
Information Papers
RAND Reports
Press Releases
Medical Information
The 1990-1991 Gulf War Story
Related Sites
Depleted Uranium
Pyridostigmine Bromide

Hyams, K.C. et al. The Impact of Infectious Diseases on the Health of U.S. Troops Deployed to the Persian Gulf During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Clinical Infectious Diseases 1995; 20: 1497-1504.

This paper is an assessment of the impact of infectious diseases (ID) on the operations in the Persian Gulf based upon reviews of published reports and data on the surveillance of 40,000 Marine Corps personnel deployed to northeastern Saudi Arabia. Disease and non-battle injury rates were the lowest of any U.S. military campaign. No deaths due to ID were reported during the operations. Diarrheal disease was the leading cause of ID morbidity among U.S. troops. The most frequent major intestinal pathogens were enterotoxigenic E. coli and Shigella sonnei. Principal sources were fruits and vegetables from the region. Limited outbreaks of Norwalk virus infection occurred in scattered units. Acute upper respiratory infections were common during the periods of initial deployment and crowding. Troops living in fixed facilities had higher rates of respiratory infections than troops in the field. Although cutaneous leishmaniasis was expected to be a problem (19 cases reported), unexpected were the 12 cases of viscerotropic disease due to L. tropica. The anticipated serious threat from sandfly fever never materialized. No other endemic arthropod-borne viral diseases were detected except for one case of West Nile fever. Seven cases of malaria (Plasmodium vivax) were reported among soldiers who had entered southern Iraq, a known endemic region. There were reported three cases of Coxiella burnetii infection (Q fever) but none of brucellosis, both endemic infections. Two cases of meningococcal disease occurred. The post-war occurrence of unexplained symptoms in GW veterans is discussed in terms of what is known about the threats of infectious disease (through both natural acquisition and biological warfare) specific to the region. The favorable experience with infectious diseases is attributed to a robust medical infrastructure for care, extensive preventive medicine activities, and the fortuitous circumstances of desert locations for most troops and mostly cooler weather. All future military operations can be expected to have problems with diarrheal and respiratory diseases until effective vaccines are developed.

Return to Medical Research and Publications Defining Illnesses

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing.

Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.