The US army has sent a team of experts to Iraq to investigate a pneumonia outbreak among its troops, which has so far left two dead.
A desert environment can exacerbate respiratory problems
"You've got a healthy
population and a young population (US troops) and you have
two soldiers who have died, and that's a concern," said army spokeswoman Lyn Kukral.
She said there have been more than 100 cases among US troops in the Iraq region since the beginning of March, including 15 serious enough to warrant medical evacuation to
get the patients ventilators to assist their breathing.
Of these 15, two soldiers died, 10 troops recovered and three remain hospitalised.
Experts are also being sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany, where some of
the troops were treated after being flown from Iraq.
They will be hunting for a
possible common thread.
The troops who have come down with
pneumonia were geographically dispersed and came from different
military units, officials said.
The cases also occurred
periodically over five months, rather than all at once.
Ms Kukral said no infectious agent such as a bacterium or
virus has been discovered to be common to all the cases.
"We have no evidence to indicate that there are chemical or
biological weapons or environmental toxins involved."
The Iraq team will sample soil, water
and air to gauge whether these factors might be playing a role.
Pneumonia is a sometimes fatal infection or inflammation of
the lungs in which air sacs fill with pus and other liquid,
interfering with oxygen reaching the blood stream.
A desert environment can exacerbate respiratory problems.