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Gulf War Syndrome

George H Bush

Gulf War Syndrome: George H Bush was the 41st American President who served in office from January 20, 1989 to January 20, 2001. One of the important events during his presidency were the reports of Gulf War Syndrome experienced by military veterans of the Gulf War.

Definition and Summary of the Gulf War Syndrome
Summary and definition:
The Gulf War Syndrome is a mysterious medical illness experienced by returning military veterans of the Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 28 February 1991), that was fought against the Iraqi forces of Saddam Hussein.

The causes of Gulf War Syndrome has been attributed to exposure to a combination of smoke and fumes from oil well fires, pesticides, parasites, nerve gas, and other toxic chemicals. Vaccines and medications given against biological and chemical warfare agents have also be hypothesized as the cause of Gulf War Syndrome. The divergent symptoms of the chronic multi-symptom disorder, referred to as Gulf War Syndrome,  include headaches, tiredness, joint pain, indigestion, depression, sleep problems and memory difficulties. 

Facts about Gulf War Syndrome
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Gulf War Syndrome.

Potential Causes: The Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 28 February 1991) was a conflict in the Middle East in which 88,500 tons of bombs, some containing Uranium, were dropped on Iraq. Conventional warfare tactics disintegrated as Iraq began an "environmental war" against its enemies.

A third of veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War experienced chronic fatigue, muscle or joint pain, sleeping problems, rashes and breathing troubles

Potential Causes: The "environmental war" waged by Iraq included blowing up Kuwaiti oil wells. Over 700 oil wells were set alight and an estimated one billion barrels of oil burned.

Potential Causes: The Kuwaiti oil fires produced heavy smoke and pure black soot-filled plumes that polluted both the soil and the air. The smoke from the oil fires contained a cocktail of chemicals, notably, benzene, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide and have been linked to the Gulf War Syndrome.

Potential Causes: The "environmental war" included the use of scud missiles (long-range surface-to-surface guided missiles) that were used by Iraq to strike targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Potential Causes: Israel feared that the Iraqi scud missiles were filled with nerve agents, such as sarin. The concerns of the government were so great that gas masks were issued to Israeli citizens.

Potential Causes: Low levels of sarin were released after the Persian Gulf war when US troops destroyed the large ammunition storage depot at Khamisiyah in southeastern Iraq.

Potential Causes: Vaccines and medications given to the military against biological and chemical warfare agents have also be hypothesized as a possible cause of Gulf War Syndrome. The US military issued pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills to protect against exposure to nerve gas agents such as sarin.

Potential Causes: Another risk factor that has been investigated is the use of chemical based pesticides that were used against sand flies that spread a parasitic disease.

Symptoms: Joint pains and chronic fatigue were the most common symptoms followed by headaches, muscle and joint pains, short term memory loss, sleep disturbance and various skin problems such as unexplained rashes and dermatitis.

Symptoms:  Other symptoms included depression, stress, breathlessness, hair loss and gastrointestinal complaints such as diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain.

Symptoms: Similar reports of the divergent symptoms of the chronic multi-symptom disorder were reported by American, Canadian, British and Australian veterans alike. Although experts believed that the Gulf War Syndrome was not contagious, the spouses of veterans also reported similar symptoms.

In 1994 an advisory panel organized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the world's foremost medical research centers, reported that the Gulf War syndrome represented many illnesses and many causes. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) deemed biological and chemical warfare agents unlikely as causes.

In 1999 medical researchers reported that the brain scans of some sick Gulf War veterans revealed signs of damage caused by exposure to toxic chemicals.

In 2004 another study suggested that some veterans may have been sensitive enough to experience low levels of poison gases to cause symptoms associated with the Gulf War syndrome.

In 2008 the US Department of Veterans Affairs Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses appointed by US Congress, headed by chief scientist Dr Beatrice Golomb, analyzed more than 100 research studies of the Gulf War Syndrome.

The committee reported that evidence suggested that acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors, that occur naturally as venoms and poisons, used as weapons in the form of nerve agents such as sarin or used as insecticides may be the cause of the Gulf War syndrome.

The UK government has yet to acknowledge the existence of Gulf War syndrome as a physical illness caused by military service in the Persian Gulf.

Dr Beatrice Golomb, of the University of California, San Diego said "Psychological stressors are inadequate to account for the excess illness seen"

US American History
1990 - Present: The Modern Era
The Gulf War
Operation Desert Storm

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Updated 2018-01-01

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