Soldiers who suffered in the jungles of Vietnam are now in a battle with the government they fought to protect. The VA announced that a rare parasite is being detected in Vietnam veterans, revealing itself after years of dormancy, and it is so malicious that it has the potential to kill its host.
The parasite is known as a liver fluke. It often infects a human when raw or undercooked fish is eaten. The Department of Veterans Affairs is currently investigating whether that parasite is the cause of a rare bile duct cancer known as cholangiocarcinoma, according to Fox News.
In a study commissioned by the VA last spring, which tried to determine the link between liver flukes and the cancer, detected more than 20 percent of the 50 blood samples submitted came back positive, or bordering positive, for liver fluke antibodies, said Sung-Tae Hong, tropical medicine specialist and the person responsible for carrying out the tests at Seoul National University in South Korea.
Unfortunately, those veterans who have been infected with the parasite are not getting the care they deserve. According to Fox News, the number of claims submitted in 2017 reached 60, which was up from 41 the previous year. But nearly three out of four of those cases were also denied.
Thankfully Mike Baughman, 65, who has bile duct cancer which, according to his doctor, was “more likely than not” caused by liver flukes, was granted a claim for service-related benefits earlier in 2017. He was denied three times.
Baughman believes that he was probably infected when his unit was forced to eat uncooked fish in the Vietnam jungle after they ran out of rations. He receives about $3,100 a month and is thankful that his wife will receive support after he dies.
“In the best of all worlds, if you came down with cholangiocarcinoma, just like Agent Orange, you automatically were in,” said Baughman. “You didn’t have to go fighting.”
“Personally, I got what I needed, but if you look at the bigger picture with all these other veterans, they don’t know what necessarily to do,” he said. “None of them have even heard of it before. A lot of them give me that blank stare like, ‘You’ve got what?’”
The parasite can remain dormant in humans for decades. In the early stages, treatment through drugs can kill them. But over time, swelling and inflammation of the bile duct can lead to cancer. More prevalent symptoms, such as jaundice, itchy skin and weight loss, appear only when the disease is in its final stages.
Please pray for our Vietnam veterans. Follow the latest developments in the plight of the missing crewmen who were part of a plane crash in the Philippine Sea. President Trump has asked for prayers.