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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note/Tracking Gulf War Syndrome

Air Date: Week of March 28, 2003

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As the current Gulf War continues, there’s concern that today’s soldiers might also develop Gulf War syndrome. Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on how the military has improved its health monitoring of the troops. Also, news of a possible treatment for Gulf War syndrome.

Transcript

Coming up, a look back at the history of Iraq's oil industry. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

[MUSIC: Health Note Theme]

TOOMEY: More than two years ago, the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies, released a report on Gulf War Syndrome, the mysterious illness whose symptoms include pain, fatigue, and memory loss. The authors of the report said it was impossible to determine the cause of the illness in part because there was little data about what the affected veterans were exposed to while overseas.

The committee urged the military to improve its monitoring of deployed soldiers. Now it appears the Department of Defense is taking that advice. In the current Gulf War, DOD says it's keeping detailed records of where each soldier goes, as well as any injuries and exposures he or she might experience.

Meanwhile, there may be a bit of good news for those already diagnosed with Gulf War illness. Researchers at the Veterans Administration recently found that a combination of behavior therapy, such as relaxation techniques, and exercise might relieve symptoms. In a study of almost 1,100 seriously ill Gulf War vets, researchers found that after three months, 17 percent of those who did both therapy and exercise reported significant improvement in symptoms. That compared to 15 percent who did therapy only, 13 percent who just exercised, and 9 percent of those who received no special treatment. Researchers say the results will be distributed to doctors throughout the VA system who treat Gulf War Syndrome.

That's this week's Environmental Health Note. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Jean Luc Ponty “Rhum ‘N Zouc” The Best of World Music - Rhino (1993)]

 

 

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