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Emerg Infect Dis. 1998 Apr-Jun;4(2):211-9.

Hospitalizations for unexplained illnesses among U.S. veterans of the Persian Gulf War.

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  • 1Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, California 92186, USA.


Persian Gulf War veterans have reported a variety of symptoms, many of which have not led to conventional diagnoses. We ascertained all active-duty U.S. military personnel deployed to the Persian Gulf War (552,111) and all Gulf War era military personnel not deployed (1,479,751) and compared their postwar hospitalization records (until 1 April 1996) for one or more of 77 diagnoses under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) system. The diagnoses were assembled by the Emerging Infections Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are here termed "unexplained illnesses." Deployed veterans were found to have a slightly higher risk of hospitalization for unexplained illness than the nondeployed. Most of the excess hospitalizations for the deployed were due to the diagnosis "illness of unknown cause" (ICD-9 code 799.9), and most occurred in participants of the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program who were admitted for evaluation only. When the effect of participation in this program was removed, the deployed had a slightly lower risk than the nondeployed. These findings suggest that active-duty Gulf War veterans did not have excess unexplained illnesses resulting in hospitalization in the 4.67-year period following deployment.

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