- At least one family, and possibly two, want independent
opinions on what caused the deaths of their loved ones after they became
ill in Iraq.
- In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the
Bellville, Texas, family of Army Spc. Zeferino Colunga requested medical
records, personal effects and blood and tissue samples of the 20-year-old
- Colunga, of the 4th Squadron, 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment,
died Aug. 6 at Homburg Hospital in Germany, after he fell ill in Iraq.
The family was told he had pneumonia and acute leukemia, his 19-year-old
sister, Teresa Colunga, said.
- "We gave the military my brother alive," she
said. "They gave him back to us dead. I want to find out what happened."
- The family is concerned that the Defense Department lacks
the expertise of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is
not providing them with information they request, according to the letter.
- "We as a family are concerned that we are not being
told the truth," the letter states. The family wants "immediate
access" to all personal effects and property, medical records, medical
evacuation reports, staff journal reports, disease and nonbattle injury
reports, pre-deployment screening reports, predeployment serum and blood,
postmortem tissue and blood samples, postmortem medical reports, cause-of-death
reports, epidemiological survey reports, endemic disease reports, vaccine
injury reports and any other similar reports "that will assist us
in understanding the cause of death."
- The letter was drafted on the family's behalf by the
National Gulf War Resource Center. The group sent a virtually identical
letter to Rumsfeld in the name of the family of Spc. Joshua Neusche, 20,
of Montreal, Mo., who died in Germany on July 12 of pneumonia. Neusche
was with the 203rd Engineer Battalion. His family could not be reached
- Since March, 18 U.S. service members in Operations Iraqi
Freedom and Enduring Freedom have suffered severe cases of pneumonia and
needed ventilation. Two have died, although defense officials said Colunga's
case was not related to the recent pneumonia cases in Southwest Asia.
- In all, defense officials say roughly 100 service members
in U.S. Central Command have been diagnosed with pneumonia. The Army sent
two teams, one to Germany and the other to Iraq, to investigate the causes.
- "Currently, we have identified no infectious agent
common to all the cases," the Army surgeon generalís office
said in a statement. "Additionally, there is no evidence that any
of the 18 serious pneumonia cases under review have been caused by exposure
to chemical or biological weapons, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or
environmental toxins. The review of the cases is being done in collaboration
with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
- Defense health officials can't release data on the deaths
without the next of kin's written permission. Officials say they have one
unsigned letter that seems to be from the Neusche family but have not seen
the letter from the Colungas. Copies provided by the National Gulf War
Resource Center show both lack a signature and list the center as the point
- Each family has been contacted by a doctor "to give
them a conduit to ask medical questions," said Lyn Kukral, spokeswoman
for the Army surgeon general. One family had been contacted before the
letters were sent; the other had not.
- Copyright © 2003
- From S. F.
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
- ...is cancer of the lymph cells, a type of white blood
- ...ALL is thought to have many causes, including:
- - exposure to radiation
- - exposure to toxins
- - gene or chromosome abnormalities that are passed on
- from parent to child
- - a poorly working immune system
- - viruses that affect the immune system
- Acute Nonlymphocytic Leukemia (ANLL)
- ...is a kind of cancer that occurs in a specialized white
- called a myelocyte.
- ... ANLL is thought to have many causes, including:
- - certain chemicals, such as benzene and toluene
- - certain genetic defects, such as Down syndrome
- - cigarette smoke
- - exposure to large doses of radiation
- - some unusual viruses
- From CM Ross
- Hi Jeff,
- Marie Curie and her daughters also died of leukemia,
thought to have been induced by their work on researching radium. Many
of scientific researchers who worked on radioactive materials later died
of radiation induced cancer.
- Take care,