Assessment of Arthropod Vectors of Infectious Diseases in Areas of U.S. Troop Deployment in the Persian Gulf

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  • U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3, Navy Disease Vector Ecology and Control Center, Naval Medical Research Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Navy Disease Vector Ecology and Control Center, U.S. Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit No. 7, Cairo, Egypt

Beginning in August 1990, approximately 800,000 coalition troops were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. There was substantial concern about arthropod-borne diseases, particularly sand fly fever and cutaneous leishmaniasis, because of high morbidity rates in the Persian Gulf during World War II (WWII). In sharp contrast to WWII, there was no report of sand fly fever among coalition forces and only 31 cases of leishmaniasis among 697,000 U.S. troops. To further evaluate the risk of arthropod-borne diseases, an entomologic survey was conducted in 12 areas of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. A total of 1,556 arthropods was collected during four survey periods in 1992. The suspected vectors of cutaneous Leishmania major infection, sand fly fever, West Nile fever, Rift Valley fever, and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever were identified; however, there was no evidence of arboviruses or Leishmania among collected specimens nor from 51 trapped rodents. There are several possible reasons for the low risk of arthropod-borne infectious diseases among Desert Shield/Storm troops in an area where suspected vectors frequently were found: the use of insecticides and repellents, and the deployment of most ground troops to the open desert during the cooler, winter period-conditions least favorable for the transmission of arthropod-borne diseases.

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