(BILLY COX, HERALD TRIBUNE) Diagnosed for post traumatic stress disorder and exposed to Agent Orange that saddled him with heart disease, John Ball thought the worst of Vietnam was behind him.
But last year, half a century after completing combat duty in southeast Asia, Ball, 73, was rocked by a newsflash — a dangerous tropical parasite is lying dormant in his system.
Over the past two months, two of Ball’s fellow veterans from Long Island have died of cholangiocarcinoma, a cancer in the slender tubes that carry the digestive fluid bile through the liver.
Their deaths were preceded by this year’s groundbreaking survey of 50 Vietnam survivors who submitted samples to a Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Northport, New York.
Fourteen of them, or 28 percent, tested positive for liver flukes, which are alien to American ecosystems.
Are VA bureaucrats dragging their feet?
Ball argues VA bureaucrats are dragging their feet on publishing that data.
“They’re petrified of how many people are going to come up, because it’s not just Vietnam vets,” says Ball.
“The most prominent cancer in South Korea is caused by liver flukes. We have been sending troops to Korea for nearly 70 years; we have 30,000 troops there now, with their dependents, their families. And it’s not just Korea — it’s all over southeast Asia.”
According to an Associated Press investigation, “about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma have been seen by the VA in the past 15 years.
Less than half of them submitted claims for service-related benefits, mostly because they were not aware of a possible connection to Vietnam.”
Ball says veterans can’t afford to wait.
“How many guys have we had serving in Asia? Plus families and dependents? We need the VA to start testing for liver flukes immediately,” says Ball. “It should be part of routine testing.” Read the full story at The Herald-Tribune. READ THIS NEXT: Salamanders Grow New Limbs, Why Not Soldiers?