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44 Service Members Sick with 'Malaria-Like' Symptoms

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2003 – Forty-four service members who have served in Liberia are sick with "malaria-like symptoms," Defense officials announced. Twelve of them have been diagnosed with the disease.

The sick service members primarily are Marines who had been part of a 200-man quick-reaction force that served in Liberia for varying lengths of time during August, according to Navy Lt. Dan Hetlage, a Pentagon spokesman. Forty of those sick are Marines. Three others are sailors, and one is a soldier.

All except the soldier have been evacuated from aboard the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, which is afloat in the Atlantic off the coast of Liberia. The soldier's medical condition is such that medical evacuation was not deemed necessary, Hetlage explained. Most of the other service members are being treated at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland, while a few remain at Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Military members serving in that region receive mefloquin, a weekly medication designed to prevent malaria, a mosquito-borne disease common in tropical climates. Hetlage said military officials have confirmed the drug was distributed among the sick service members, but that blood tests were being conducted to determine if they actually took the required dosage.

"Right now there is no reason to believe they didn't get (the pills) or take them," he added.

As of today, service members serving both shipboard and afloat in the region also are taking doxycycline, an antibiotic taken daily, as an additional precautionary measure against malaria, Hetlage said.

About 140 service members are on the ground in Liberia, and another 180 are in nearby Senegal. About 2,200 Marines and 1,900 sailors are offshore.

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