Stars and Stripes
Mon Nov 17 01:44:06 2003

Sand Flies Active—and Dangerous—in Iraq
... conditions in Iraq, and because environmental surveillance data indicates a particularly
robust population of sand flies exists in Iraq, the precautionary ...

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of sand flies and can either be in a skin or internal organ form, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site (

Military blood bank needs new donors

By Fred Zimmerman, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, November 17, 2003

CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — The instant disqualification of potential blood donors returning from Iraq is putting a strain on Okinawa’s blood supply.

The Armed Services Blood Bank Center here is saying it’s in “dire need” of new blood donors.

Any servicemember who steps foot inside Iraq will be disqualified from giving blood anywhere from one to three years, Becky Leavitt, a blood-donor recruiter, said Friday.

Depending on where servicemember spent time, they can be banned because of the possibility of exposure to leishmaniasis or malaria, she said.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of sand flies and can either be in a skin or internal organ form, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site (

The skin form is characterized by sores that develop anywhere from weeks to months after a person is bitten. If untreated, the sores can last years.

The disease’s internal organ form shows symptoms such as fever, weight loss, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and anemia. Symptoms can take months or years to develop after a person is infected. If untreated, it’s typically fatal.

Leavitt said anyone whose foot even touches the sand in Iraq is automatically barred from giving blood for one year because of the threat of leishmaniasis. Depending on the length of stay in a malaria-endemic area, servicemembers may be kept from giving blood for up to three years.

Leavitt said the restrictions are really hurting the center, which supplies the Pacific region. More than 90 percent of their donors are active-duty military.

“We need dependents and civilians to start donating regularly,” Leavitt said. “All advertised drives are open to anyone.”

The center has never been overly concerned about numbers because it’s always had the potential to bring them up when servicemembers return from deployments. But now, it’s the potential for a shortage that worries officials because the number of qualified donors is dwindling.

If the blood bank can’t find more donors, it may have to rely on a reserve back in the United States. But that could impact GIs who are in harm’s way.

“The facilities that are treating the casualties [in Iraq] are relying on the same emergency supply stateside that we do if we don’t have enough donors to supply the Pacific,” Leavitt said. “They need those reserves now.”

The center can barely keep up with demand, she said.

As of Friday, the bank had sent out 141 units — pints — and 212 units in October. It currently has 102 units on hand, but it’s supposed to maintain at least 150. A large supply is needed because one trauma alone can take up to 40 units or more.

The center has a donation quota of 300 units each month, but even if that figure is met, it doesn’t mean a surplus.

“We went 55 over quota last month, but we shipped out so much we ended lower in inventory than when we started,” Leavitt said. “Two months in a row we went over, and then we look at inventory numbers and say, ‘What happened? Where did it go?’”

Another reason the blood bank can’t keep up, Leavitt added, is because of unusually high demand.

“People who don’t usually request blood from us are because their supply is drying up,” she said.

Malaria and leishmaniasis aren’t the only diseases making it difficult to find donors, said Air Force 1st Lt. Jerome Vinluan, the blood bank’s assistant director. Severe acute respiratory syndrome remains an issue, and the effects of mad cow disease are still being felt.

Vinluan said anyone stationed in Europe between 1980 and 1996 are barred from donating indefinitely because of mad cow disease. That restriction alone kept 25 percent of donors from ever giving again. Those who visited a country on the SARS list, or even went through an airport there, can’t donate blood for 28 days.

“The [Food and Drug Administration] makes it more challenging when they put a new country on the list,” Vinluan said.

For information about qualifications and blood drives, go to, click on information for patients and community, then blood donor program.

Searched the web for APFN IRAQ SAND FLEAS. Results 1 - 4 of about 7

Searched news for IRAQ sand flies. Results 1 - 10 of about 148

1. Unknown illness sweeps US troops: (Sand Fleas)
illness sweeps US troops: (Sand Fleas) Thu Oct 2 18:09:31 ...
US troops serving in Iraq could be the harbinger of a new ...
U.S. Ignored Iraq Recommendation Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Kirt Love
Mon Oct 27 01:39:24 2003;article=45872;title=APFN

Sand flies keep troops from donating blood
Pacific Stars and Stripes, Japan - 16 hours ago
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The military blood supply has taken another
hit, this time by a parasitic disease spread by sand flies in Iraq. ...

Skin disease infects U.S. soldiers in Iraq

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Click here to find out more!

At least 30 soldiers serving in Iraq have contracted a skin disease spread by sand flies, prompting a ban on blood donations by all members of the military in Iraq for a year after they return home, health officials said Thursday.

The parasitic disease, leishmaniasis, occurs in two forms. The soldiers have the milder form, which causes skin sores and is curable if promptly treated. The other form of the disease -- believed to account for some reports of Gulf War syndrome after that conflict in 1990-91 -- often causes fever, weight loss and organ damage. It can be fatal.

A few cases have been transmitted through blood transfusions in other countries, but not in the United States. The new policy may divert more than 12,000 blood donors, Pentagon officials said. But some soldiers would have been forbidden from donating anyway because they have been in places where malaria is common.

A similar ban was implemented after the Gulf War, when 32 soldiers got leishmaniasis, including 12 cases of the more serious form of the disease, military officials said.

In a report Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, health officials said the soldiers in the recent outbreak have been treated successfully.

At least 30 soldiers have contracted the skin form of the disease in Iraq this year, plus two apiece in Kuwait and Afghanistan since the beginning of last year, said Dr. Dallas Hack of Walter Reed. They came from the Army, the Air Force and the Marine Corps and included active, reserve and National Guard members.

Most have had a few lesions, often resembling mini-volcanoes, on their arms or legs.

More cases may be forthcoming. The sand fly season runs from May to October, and symptoms often don't appear for a month after infection. "I would expect we would see it for another couple of months," Hack said. "A lot of people are reserves coming back, and they may not see this until they get out of active duty."

Cases of the systemic, more serious, form of the disease also may turn up, said Dr. Kathleen Murray-Leisure, an infectious disease specialist from Pennsylvania who has treated Gulf War veterans.

"What they're seeing so far is the tip of the iceberg," she said. "Whenever you have this many [skin] cases, there are probably [systemic] cases too."

She said systemic leishmaniasis accounts for one-third to one-half of Gulf War syndrome. But Hack said he considers leishmaniasis separate from Gulf War syndrome, a label he reserves for conditions with no specific diagnosis.

Military health officials have instructed soldiers to use insect repellent and insecticide-treated bed nets to protect themselves against parasite-carrying sand flies, Hack said.

Murray-Leisure, who praised those steps, called for one more: clothing that covers the whole body.

"Ideally they would issue scarves to each and every soldier or tell them to wear turbans," she said. "They need to dress like the Arabs."

----- Original Message -----
From: Kirt Love HTTP://
Sent: Friday, October 24, 2003 8:42 PM
Subject: [gulflink] Skin disease infects U.S. soldiers in Iraq

'You can say I was at war'
USA Today - Nov 9, 2003
... Diarrhea and gastroenteritis took their toll, as did swarms of sand flies ... There
were 172 troops on the company roster when they entered Iraq. ...

Sand flies dangerous in Iraq
Army Public Affairs (press release) - Oct 28, 2003
... were infected in Southwest Asia; all but two spent at least some time in Iraq. ... Preventive
measures include taking steps to avoid or prevent sand flies ..

GIs tell stories of fear, anger, retribution and hope in Iraq
Arizona Republic, AZ - Nov 10, 2003
They drove into Iraq on April 22, traveling 450 miles to Baquoba, north of ... first
months of living on the ground in pup tents, eaten alive by sand flies. ..

America at War
... Nassiriya. Recent tests conducted by the US military found that more than
1 percent of sand flies in Iraq carried the parasite. Although ...

Sand flies dangerous in Iraq

U.S. Army Medical Command

WASHINGTON, USA (Oct. 28, 2003) – Service members in Iraq who fail to follow preventive measures risk the bite of the tiny, but fearsome, sand fly, Army medical officials said.

It's peak season for these pests through the end of November, doctors said, and their bite can carry a disease called leishmaniasis.

There are two kinds of leishmaniasis--cutaneous and visceral.

People who get the cutaneous form have sores on their skin that do not heal after several weeks. The sores form weeks after an infected sand fly bites. The sores initially appear bumps on the skin, then form an open, flat, circular sore with raised edges. Sometimes they have a scab, and sometimes they hurt. Untreated, the skin sores can last for years and leave permanent scars, but are rarely life threatening.

Visceral leishmaniasis, on the other hand, is a much more serious infection of the liver, spleen and other internal organs that can be fatal if not treated. People who get the visceral form of the disease become ill from several weeks to six months after becoming infected, medical officials said. Those infected will usually have high fever, weight loss, and an enlarged spleen and liver. They also have other symptoms that show up in blood tests -- such as anemia, low white cell count and low platelet count.

Leishmaniais occurs in tropical areas around the world officials said. They said it’s very common in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in Southwest Asia.

In the past two years, 52 cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis have been reported in the Department of Defense. All of the patients were infected in Southwest Asia; all but two spent at least some time in Iraq. There have been no cases of visceral leishmaniasis detected so far.

Prevention is the best defense against the disease, medical officals said. There is no vaccine and no medication to protect against leishmaniasis. Preventive measures include taking steps to avoid or prevent sand flies from biting. These include:

* Limiting outdoor activity at dusk and during the evening, when sand flies are most active.

* Wearing protective clothing and insect repellent.

* Treating uniforms with permethrin.

* Using permethrin-treated bed netting.

Detailed information about prevention is available from the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine,

While it's rare, leishmaniasis can be transmitted through blood transfusion, medical officials said. Although there have been no cases transmitted through blood transfusion in the United States, personnel deployed to Iraq will be deferred from donating blood for one year after departure from Iraq. The deferral, put in place by the Armed Services Blood Program Office, is a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of the blood supply, officials said.

People diagnosed with either cutaneous or visceral leishmaniasis are permanently deferred from donating blood. But in most cases, it takes two to six months for symptoms of the disease to show up. Service members returning from Iraq may have been bitten by the sand fly that causes the disease and may have the parasite in the blood stream, but they may not know it.

More information on the Armed Services Blood Program's deferral is available at

Main Page - Monday, 11/17/03

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