MYSTERY ILLNESS AMONG U.S. MILITARY IN IRAQ
Some 100 soldiers have contracted a mysterious illness in Iraq, which has resulted in serious illnesses in about 20 of those soldiers, and at least two deaths.
One of these soldiers, Corporal Ronald Gometz, assigned to Headquarters Battalion of the 1st Marine Division in Al Hillah Iraq, according to his father, contracted the illness in Iraq and was comatose for seven days in hospitals in Iraq and Kuwait and was ultimately sent to Landstuhl, Germany for further treatment. The symptoms in the case of Cpl. Gometz included a cyst on the brain and fluid on the brain. Physicians in Germany made a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis. Now recovering at home with his family in Atlanta, Cpl. Gometz continues to experience lingering symptoms of his illness.
Another solider, Spec. Josh Neusche, was first thought to have contracted pneumonia while operating with the 203rd Engineer Battalion in Baghdad. Neusche, much like Gometz, was comatose with flu-like symptoms and transported to Germany for medical treatment. The illness ravaged his muscles, liver and kidneys. His parents, initially unable to afford airfare to Germany, received assistance through the generosity of fellow soldiers, and expedited help with passports from United States Senator Ike Skelton, that enabled them to travel to Germany to be with their son before he died on July 9th while in an ambulance being transported to a nearby hospital for dialysis treatment.
Senator Ike Skelton, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, is reported to have contacted top officials in the Army to voice his concerns.
It is reported that U.S. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. James Peake has ordered medical experts and epidemiology specialists to retrace these soldiers' steps from their arrival in the Middle East. It is further reported that the surgeon general has completely ruled out severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, commonly known as SARS, as the cause of the mysterious illness.
Serious pneumonia cases occur in about 9 of 10,000 soldiers annually. The 100 cases "do not exceed expectations," for the number of troops deployed, according to the surgeon general's office.
Still, the seriousness of the symptoms has others skeptical. In the case of Corporal Gometz, his family, while accepting the possibility that bacterial meningitis was indeed a correct diagnoses in their son's case, has at the same time raised questions that the soldiers may have been exposed to a weaponized biological agent.