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Vietnam Veterans’ New Old Silent Killer

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Vietnam Veterans’ New Old Silent Killer

December 04
21:13 2017

The Vietnam War began in 1955 and ended nearly 20-years later in 1975. American military forces were part of the United Nations effort to prevent communist North Vietnam from taking control of South Vietnam. Along with American forces were troops from Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, South Vietnam and Laos. They fought against troops from North Vietnam, rebel forces known as the Viet Cong, Pathet Lao and Khmer Rouge, in addition to troops from China and North Korea.

American casualties were small until Lyndon Johnson went back on his campaign promise of peace and escalated the war, sending thousands of Americans to fight, die and get wounded. Prior to Johnson’s escalation, the US only suffered a total of 426 casualties from 1956 through 1964. Between 1965 and 1971, American casualties reached 56,907. By the time Richard Nixon ended the war, America had lost 58,220 lives, with many more injured.

For years, a significant number of veterans complained about illnesses that the Veteran’s Administration denied existed until it was linked to the use of some of the chemicals used to defoliate large areas of forest and jungle. One of the primary culprits was the infamous Agent Orange. Other veterans suffered from and still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) although at the time of the war, it was often referred to as shell shock.

Many young American men came home wounded and missing limbs. A high school classmate of mine had his leg blown off on his first combat mission in Vietnam and he blamed President Johnson as did so many others.

But today, a new affliction has manifested itself in Vietnam War veterans, most of which are in their 60s,70s and 80s and it’s being called a silent killer, a liver fluke they may have contracted by eating raw or undercooked fish while serving in Vietnam.

A researcher began studying the link between liver fluke infestation and bile duct cancer and found about 20% of the blood samples from Vietnam veterans tested positive for the body’s antigens that are produced to fight liver flukes.  

One veteran who volunteered to give blood for the research was glad he did. He had no symptoms, but received a call telling him that he tested positive for the liver fluke antibodies, even though he had no symptoms. He immediately contacted his doctor to schedule tests and was thankful he did as they discovered two cysts in his bile ducts that could easily become cancerous. The cysts were removed and Wiggins is reported as doing fine.

The liver flukes can live for decades in a human host without producing any symptoms. If discovered early enough, they are easily killed off with medication, but if left for years, it’s much harder to rid a person of them.

If you are a Vietnam veteran, you may want to get a blood test for the liver fluke antibodies, even if you don’t have any symptoms. If you know of anyone else who is a Vietnam veteran, you may want to share this post with them. You never know, but hopefully, being made aware of this will help saves lives.

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