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Why are Troops in Iraq Dying of Pneumonia?
Aired August 4, 2003 - 19:19 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Military officials are also hunting for an invisible killer in Iraq.
More than 100 soldiers have come down with pneumonia. Two of them have died. Now the numbers are not out of line with the past incidents of pneumonia. But the army is sending two medical teams to the region to try to help figure out what exactly is going on.
And as CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen reports, it is a reminder that in war, not every death comes in combat.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was so young, so healthy. Now Army National Guardsman Specialist Josh Neusche is dead at the age of 20.
Family and friends in Missouri mourned him at his funeral last month.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the members of the 203rd, don't know what Josh died from. But we know what he died for.
COHEN: The military is still trying to figure out what caused the pneumonia that sickened about 100 troops since March and killed two, they say, including Neusche.
Fifteen of the patients were so ill, they required ventilators.
The military says they're confident the disease is not spread person to person, since cases have come from all over Iraq and from as far away as Uzbekistan and Qatar.
So could it have been something in the water or soil? Did fine particles of sand damage the troops' lungs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That amount of dust in the air and the harsh environment certainly could play a role in pneumonia.
COHEN: Doctor DiFrati (ph) says troops have contracted pneumonia in other harsh situations and even just in basic training. He says 100 is not a high number of cases, given that there have been more than 140,000 troops in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have anywhere between 400 and 500 cases of pneumonia in the Army every year.
COHEN: Neusche's family have spoken with military medical authorities.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are, you know, trying to nip it in the bud, it seems like, which is what would be our main concern.
COHEN: but a veterans group says the military should have sent investigators in weeks ago, and brought in teams from the centers for disease control and the world health organization to prevent more cases of this deadly pneumonia.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
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