Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) January 11, 2018 - The results of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study revealed that some Vietnam veterans may have been infected by a river parasite. The parasite is known as liver fluke and is rarely found outside of Asia.
The VA conducted a small study between April and June to examine whether liver flukes could be connected to cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and deadly bile duct cancer. The research was conducted at the VA Medical Center in Northport, New York. Five out of the 50 Vietnam War veterans in the study tested positive for exposure to the parasite. They were informed of the results.
The participants’ blood samples were collected and sent to Seoul National University in South Korea for evaluation. Liver fluke antibodies were detected in over 20 percent of them.
“The VA needs to take more action to raise awareness about liver flukes,” commented Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “Time is of the essence when it comes to treating the deadly cancer that can result from it. Veterans should not have to fight so hard to get the benefits they deserve.”
Medical center officials said the study’s findings would not be released until they are peer-reviewed in early 2018. A spokesperson for the facility said the VA was not encouraging all Vietnam veterans to undergo testing since “no definitive link has been made between the parasite and liver cancer.”
Liver flukes can enter humans through contaminated drinking water or undercooked fish. The parasite can survive undetected in the body for decades. If left untreated, it can cause liver cancer. Symptoms such as weight loss and jaundice tend to surface in the last stages of the disease.
The VA has received 240 benefit claims linked to bile-duct cancer and other liver fluke-related illnesses since 2013. It rejected over 76 percent of the disability claims. According to the Associated Press, the decisions seemed to be inconsistent or random. In addition, many veterans did not submit benefits claims due to being unaware of the illness’s possible link to their service in Vietnam.
Lawmakers have joined veterans in calling for action on the parasites. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) urged the House Committee on Veterans Affairs to examine “the links between our veterans’ military service, liver fluke infection and bile-duct cancer.” In a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer asked for the speedy release of the study’s findings.
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