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Release No: 639-96
November 14, 1996


Research results published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, reveal that Gulf War veterans who remained on active duty had no unexpected increase in hospitalizations after the war.

A team of scientists, from the Department of Defense, the University of California, San Diego, and the Department Veterans Affairs studied the hospitalizations of 1.1 million veterans. The researchers looked at a broad spectrum of diagnosis from August 1991 until September 1993. Screening the 487,549 hospitalizations, the team found that the 547,076 Gulf War veterans had the same postwar overall hospitalization experience as their 618,333 non-deployed peers of the same era.

Scientific team leader, Captain Greg Gray, a physician epidemiologist at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, reported that this work and another paper from the Department of Veterans Affairs published in the same issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, are some of the first large-scale studies to compare health outcomes among Gulf War veterans with appropriate comparison groups of other active duty personnel. "Although many Gulf War veterans were hospitalized after the war, our data show that other military personnel of that era had a similar experience," said Gray.

According to Gray, these studies and similar studies, will help to evaluate the reports of unexplained illnesses among Gulf War veterans. Gray reported that his group and other groups of scientists are performing numerous other studies among Gulf War veterans. Gray's team is coordinating studies that focus upon symptoms, reproductive health and hospitalizations among various groups of veterans. One such study will compare hospitalizations among Gulf War veterans who may have been exposed to the destruction of Iraq's Khamisiyah ammunition dump in March 1991.

While this study does not reveal any direct relationship to Gulf War illnesses, the Department of Defense is fully committed and currently engaged in further research to better understand the causes of these illnesses and to provide the best possible medical treatment of our Gulf War Veterans, said Bernard Rostker, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Gulf War Illnesses.

This study comparing hospitalization experiences between Gulf War and non-Gulf War personnel found differences between the two populations, but these differences were consistent with research findings from other wars and attributed to other reasons.

Gulf War veterans had a different risk of hospitalization than did non-deployed veterans in 16 of 42 diagnostic category comparisons. In four of these 16 different comparisons, Gulf War veterans were at increased risk: neoplasms during 1991 (largely benign), diseases of the genitourinary system during 1992, diseases of the blood and blood- forming organs during 1992 (mostly anemias), and mental disorders during 1992. These differences were not consistent over time and could be explained by deferred care, postwar pregnancies, and postwar stress.

The Department of Defense appreciates the recognition of the New England Journal of Medicine by publishing this important research, said Rostker. This is an important study in our continuing search for the causes of Gulf War illnesses.

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