LI reps introduce legislation to study veteran illness
Liver fluke

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

LI reps introduce legislation to study veteran illness


Congress members Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1), Peter King (R-NY-2), Tom Suozzi (D-NY-3) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY-4) introduced the Vietnam Veterans Liver Fluke Cancer Study Act this week, which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control, to conduct a study to determine the prevalence of liver fluke among the veteran population and the link between a veteran’s service record and affliction. This would allow veterans to claim a service connected disability under their Veterans Affairs benefits.

Liver flukes are parasites that can infect humans and cause liver and bile duct disease, according to the CDC. There are two families of liver flukes that cause disease in humans: opisthorchiidae, which includes species of clonorchis and opisthorchis, and fasciolidae, which includes species of fasciola.

“I am deeply concerned about the liver fluke parasite that has infected so many of our nation’s veterans, especially our brave service members who were deployed to Southeastern and Eastern Asia,” Zeldin said. “Our nation’s veterans have earned nothing less than the highest quality care, and it is our responsibility as a nation to develop a plan, secure funding to test all veterans whose service exposed them to liver fluke and, if necessary, provide appropriate care and do so as soon as possible.”

In a study done by Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice, researchers concluded a link between those who served in the Vietnam War and veterans who contracted the parasite. But further research is needed to see if the link can cause cholangiocarcinoma, a rare tumor of bile ducts, which usually occurs in a person’s 60s or 70s.

“We owe it to the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to ensure they have the support and access to the very best in healthcare, treatment and outreach,” King said. “This is simply too important and the number of incidents warrant immediate attention.”

The study was performed at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport. Researchers found that the parasite was present in veterans who had eaten raw freshwater fish. Other families of liver fluke could be contracted by eating raw watercress or other water plants.

The proposed law calls for an epidemiological study on the prevalence of cholangiocarcinoma in veterans of the Vietnam era. The study will identify the rate of incidence of cholangiocarcinoma in veterans and in residents of the United States, from the beginning of the Vietnam era to now. The bill also requires researchers to identify the percentage of individuals with cholangiocarcinoma by various demographic characteristics, including by age, gender, race and ethnicity.

“These veterans served our nation bravely, and we have a responsibility to provide them with the healthcare services they need to live full and healthy lives,” Rice added.