Army reports two new severe pneumonia cases
Spokeswoman: Number of afflicted not historically significant
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Army surgeon general said Monday that the number of cases of serious pneumonia reported since March 1 among U.S. service members has risen to 18, up from 16 since the last report 10 days ago.
Two of the patients have died. Their deaths are being investigated, said Lyn Kukral, a public affairs officer with the office of the army surgeon general.
No infectious agent common to the 18 cases has been found, she said, and there is no evidence that exposure to chemical or biological weapons, or severe acute respiratory syndrome or environmental toxins, caused any of the cases.
All 18 patients -- 17 men and a woman -- were placed on ventilators. The cases were geographically dispersed, and the afflicted serve in different units.
Twelve of the cases have occurred in Iraq, three in Kuwait, and one each in Qatar, Uzbekistan and Djibouti. The patients range in age from 19-47, with a median age of 24.
Two cases occurred in March, two in April, one in May, six in June, four in July and three in August.
Several weeks ago, the Army activated two medical teams to investigate the cases.
One team went to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, where most of the patients were treated after medical evacuation. The other team is working with medical personnel in Iraq.
The teams are reviewing patient records and laboratory results, and questioning health care providers and patients.
In Iraq, the team is sampling soil, water and air to examine whether those factors might have played a part.
The case review is being carried out in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Army-wide, pneumonia serious enough to warrant hospitalization occurs in about 400-500 soldiers per year, Kukral said. Based on that, the approximately 100 total cases of pneumonia in the Central Command area of operations since March 1 do not exceed expectations, she added.
She did not have figures about how many cases typically require ventilators.
From 1998 through 2002, 17 soldiers have died from pneumonia or from complications of pneumonia, she said.