March 10, 1995 in Nation/World

16% Of Sick Gulf Vets Undiagnosed; Biological Agents Not Suspected

Jim Abrams Associated Press

One in six Persian Gulf veterans suffering post-war ailments still cannot be diagnosed, but early tests indicate chemical and biological agents were not involved in any of the illnesses, the Pentagon’s top doctor said Thursday.

“There is no one unique, single, overriding cause” of the illnesses that have afflicted thousands of Persian Gulf veterans and have come to be known as Gulf War syndrome, Dr. Stephen Joseph, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told a House Veterans’ Affairs panel.

Joseph released updated figures of a Pentagon medical evaluation program of Gulf War veterans showing that in 84 percent of cases a clear diagnosis of health problems could be found.

Of 2,074 cases analyzed, Joseph said about 4 percent were suffering from infectious diseases, while 21 percent had psychologically related problems.

He said Pentagon doctors were unable to diagnose about 16 percent in the study complaining of fatigue, headache and sleep disturbances.

“That’s the group that still represents a mystery,” the doctor said.

About 15,000 veterans are participating in the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program.

Joseph discounted arguments that Iraqi chemical or biological agents could have sickened vets, repeating the Pentagon assertion that “there is no persuasive evidence of such exposure, even after much scrutiny.”

But he insisted that “we are very determined not to foreclose any possibilities.”

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