Firefighters to be checked for 'WTC cough'
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Firefighters who raced to the World Trade Center collapse last month will be checked for respiratory problems.
Starting today, the nearly 11,000 firefighters who responded to the attack will undergo screening.
Dr. David Prezant, chief pulmonologist for the New York Fire Department, said there has been an increase in the number of cases he calls the "World Trade Center cough."
The symptoms have been as severe as respiratory distress requiring mechanical ventilation, while most have a cough with or without associated sinus infection.
While Prezant is hesitant to refer to the problem as a "syndrome," he said there has been a sudden increase in respiratory problems and up to 40 percent of the respondents need medical care and treatment for their breathing problems.
The health surveillance screening program will target 150 to 170 firefighters a day for the next two months.
The specific tests will include lung function tests, chest X-rays, electrocardiograms, hearing tests and blood work, including screening for heavy metal contamination and PCBs. Firefighters and other rescue personnel, including EMTs and paramedics, will also begin educational and counseling sessions about post-traumatic stress disorder and other effects the events of September 11 may have on their physical and emotional lives.
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