Swine flu hits U.S. soldiers

Of Iraq's 96 cases, American troops account for 67

The Associated PressAugust 13, 2009 

— There have been 67 confirmed cases of swine flu among American troops in Iraq with dozens more suspected, Iraqi officials said Wednesday, making U.S. soldiers the single largest group in the country to come down with the virus.

American soldiers account for more than two-thirds of Iraq's 96 swine flu cases, according to figures released by the Iraqi Health Ministry, as it presented steps being taken to control the spread of the virus that last week claimed its first fatality in Iraq.

In addition to the soldiers, 23 Iraqis and six foreigners have been diagnosed with the virus, said Dr. Amer al-Khuzai, the deputy health minister. A 21-year-old woman, described in poor health, died in Najaf where she had been visiting revered Shiite shrines.

All American soldiers diagnosed with swine flu have either recovered or are undergoing treatment, he said, adding that there have been no fatalities among U.S. forces.

The U.S. military confirmed the 67 cases, an increase from the 51 it reported earlier this week. It also said 71 suspected cases were in isolation.

"None have been significantly ill. None have required hospitalization or evacuation," Col. Michael D. Eisenhauer, chief of clinical operations in Iraq, told The Associated Press by e-mail.

Swine flu cases have been diagnosed at six American bases in Iraq, he said.

The military has been giving the ministry weekly updates on cases found on their bases in Iraq, Eisenhauer said in another e-mail to AP this week.

"There has not been a sudden outbreak," Eisenhauer said, explaining that the cases have appeared over the last three months since the military began screening for the virus.

Troops heading to and from Afghanistan and Iraq are now also screened.

In Afghanistan, 14 U.S. personnel were diagnosed with and treated for swine flu in June at Bagram Air Base, the main U.S. base north of Kabul. In the western Afghan city of Herat, 22 Spanish soldiers were quarantined with suspected cases in July.

The Iraqi Health Ministry said the higher prevalence of the flu in U.S. troops than Iraqis was likely a combination of factors, such as their close living quarters and their travels.

"We think they have this many cases because they come through different countries to come here. They come from the United States. They come from Europe," al-Khuzai said.

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