Maine Veteran Population Statistics courtesy maine.gov
WASHINGTON D.C. – A small study conducted by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs may be an indicator of a big problem that has flown under the radar for Vietnam veterans.
The Associated Press and Military Times are reporting that the study, made up of samples from 50 Vietnam veterans, indicated that 20% of those tested showed positive indicators of infection by a parasite that can be contracted when eating raw fish from the rivers of Vietnam.
Infection, most often caused from consuming a parasite known as liver flukes, can eventually lead to rare and painful bile duct cancer, which is often not detected until the patient has just months to live.
While the issue has been discussed for a number of years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has not stepped in to take full responsibility. Last year, Senator Chuck Schumer called for a study after learning that a Vietnam veteran from his state had seen his claims denied by the VA.
The VA has also been criticized for not recommending testing for veterans who are at risk in recent years, even as the issue has seen rising awareness among those potentially affected.
Bile duct cancer caused by the liver fluke is extremely rare among the general population in the United States, but appears to be much more prominent among those who served in the Vietnam War.
In recent years, the VA is reported to have denied approximately three out of four claims for bile duct cancer, according to the AP report.
Sadly, the parasite can be wiped out with medicine administered orally if detected early.
The state of Maine has one of the largest populations of military veterans per capita in the nation.
In total, the state of Maine claims more than 44,000 veterans of the Vietnam war among our more than 130,000 veterans statewide.