Volume 65, Issue 5
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Infectious diseases were one of the first health threats confronted by Coalition troops deployed to the Arabian desert in August 1990. On the basis of experiences in World War II, the major endemic infectious disease risks were thought to be sandfly fever, cutaneous leishmaniasis, diarrheal disease, and malaria. Although there was active surveillance, no case of sandfly fever and few other endemic infectious diseases were identified among over 500,000 U.S., British, and Canadian ground troops. In addition, there was no diagnosis of biological warfare (BW) exposure, and BW agents were not detected in clinical, environmental, or veterinary samples. The most common infectious disease problems were those associated with crowding (acute upper respiratory infections) and reduced levels of sanitation (travelers-type diarrhea). Only one endemic infectious disease has been confirmed as causing chronic health problems: visceral Leishmania tropica infection (viscerotropic leishmaniasis). However, this protozoan infection was diagnosed in only 12 U.S. veterans, and no new cases have been identified during the last 8 years. Infectious diseases were not a serious problem for Gulf War troops because of extensive preventive medicine efforts and favorable weather and geographic factors. Moreover, it is unlikely that an endemic infectious disease or a BW agent could cause chronic health problems and remain undetected over a 10-year period.


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