Federal Activities Related to the Health of Persian Gulf Veterans


After the Gulf war, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided substantial support to various agencies and the Kuwait Task Force which was under the direction of DoD. HHS observers and advisors helped develop a range of public health programs affecting the restoration of Kuwait, and the Office of Refugee Health medically screened U.S. citizens detained by the Iraqi Government and made referrals for further evaluations and treatments.

In addition, the CDC National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID) has tested blood samples from Persian Gulf veterans for leishmania infection. The CDC National Center for Environmental Health and the National Institute of Health's (NIH) National Cancer Institute have been involved in the "Biological Surveillance Initiative" studying the health effects of Kuwaiti oil fires. CDC has had a major advisory role in the epidemiological assessment and study of potential birth defects in children of National Guard veterans from Mississippi.

Lastly, representatives from NIH and CDC have participated in interagency efforts to address the health consequences of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, including the Department of Veterans Affairs Persian Gulf Expert Scientific Committee, the Interagency Research Coordinating Council, and the Defense Science Board Task Force.

Other specific HHS research projects that have a bearing on the health of Persian Gulf veterans are as follows:

I. Research

A. Epidemiology

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Survey of Veterans from Iowa

Action: CDC (National Center for Environment Health), Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), the University of Iowa.

Purpose: The CDC will direct a telephone survey of approximately 2,000 Iowa veterans who served in the Persian Gulf and 2,000 Iowa veterans who served elsewhere during the same time period to determine the prevalence of symptoms/disease and possible risk factors. This survey also will include questions on the health status of spouses and children.

Status: Ongoing. Currently in planning stages. Extensive discussions have taken place between CDC, VA, and DoD to ensure coordination between this study and the VA's random survey of 15,000 Persian Gulf veterans and the cohort studies being conducted by DoD/NHRC. Funds were awarded to IDPH on 1 December 1994 to conduct the study. A final report is expected by mid-1996.

Results: Not available at this time.

Coordination: HHS, VA, DoD

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Investigation of Veterans in Pennsylvania

Action: CDC, Pennsylvania Health Department

Purpose: The CDC will conduct an investigation of the illnesses experienced by Pennsylvania veterans who served in the Persian Gulf. Clinical evaluations, survey questionnaire and a case-control study are planned.

Status: Ongoing. The investigation has begun and should be completed by mid 1995.

Results: Not available at this time.

Coordination: CDC, VA, DoD

B. Other Studies

Studies of Gastroenteritis Viruses by Electron Microscopy

Action: NIH/NIAID and DoD.

Purpose: The stools of Desert Storm troops who developed gastroenteritis while deployed to the Persian Gulf were examined for the presence of viral agents.

Status: Complete.

Results: Manuscript published. (See Appendix)

Norwalk virus infection among Desert Storm Troops (1993). Journal of Infectious Diseases, 167, 986-987.

Coordination: HHS, DoD, and VA.

Pathogenesis of Disease Caused by Infection with Intracellular Parasites

Action: NCID/NIH

Purpose: This study focuses on the different clinical forms of leishmania infections in humans. Comparisons of the bone marrow of Desert Storm patients with visceral leishmaniasis and patients experiencing the type of visceral leishmaniasis found in the Sudan will be made.

Status: Ongoing.

Results: Not available at this time.

Coordination: HHS, DoD (Walter Reed Army Medical Center), and VA.

Use of Immunological Techniques to Study the Interaction of Carcinogens with DNA

Action: NCI/NIH

Purpose: Studies utilizing immunological techniques, such as the ELISA, are being performed on the blood samples of a variety of individuals exposed to such things as coke ovens, aluminum plant fumes, and oil fires. The individuals exposed to smoke are military personnel who were in the Gulf during the Kuwaiti oil fires. This study is designed to determine if there is any DNA change due to oil well fire smoke exposure while in the Persian Gulf.

Status: Ongoing.

Results: Not available at this time.

Coordination: HHS, VA, and DoD.