WASHINGTON – Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) joined Reps. Lee Zeldin (NY-1), Peter King (NY-2), Tom Suozzi (NY-3) and Kathleen Rice (NY-4) in introducing the Vietnam Veterans Liver Fluke Cancer Study Act, which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control, to conduct a study to determine the prevalence of “liver flukes” amongst the veteran population and the link between a veteran’s service record and affliction, paving the way for veterans to claim a service connected disability under their Veterans Affairs benefits.
“It is imperative that our nation’s veterans receive access to the highest quality medical testing and treatment options. The Vietnam Veterans Liver Fluke Cancer Study Act establishes a link between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Centers for Disease Control to ensure care and coverage for American patriots exposed to the “liver fluke” parasite,” said Fitzpatrick. “With an alarming number of Vietnam veterans carrying ‘Liver Flukes’, this legislation fulfills our nation’s obligation to provide our servicemen and women the health benefits and peace of mind which they are owed.”
“I am deeply concerned about the Liver Fluke parasite that has infected so many of our nation’s veterans, especially our brave service members who were deployed to Southeastern and Eastern Asia. Preliminary reports appear to have indicated these veterans are carrying the dormant parasite Platyhelminthes, commonly known as ‘liver fluke’, which in several instances has led to the contraction of very serious, life threatening health conditions such as bile duct cancer and liver disease,” said Zeldin. “Our nation’s veterans have earned nothing less than the highest quality care, and it is our responsibility as a nation to develop a plan, secure funding to test all veterans whose service exposed them to ‘liver fluke’, and if necessary, provide appropriate care, and do so as soon as possible. That’s why today, I was proud to introduce legislation on behalf of these very veterans, legislation that requires a long-overdue study of this disease and paves the way for infected veterans to receive the treatment they have earned.”
“We owe it to the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to ensure they have the support and access to the very best in health care, treatment and outreach,” said King. “I am proud to work with Rep. Zeldin on this legislation requiring the VA to study and ensure that any of our veterans who may have been exposed to ‘liver fluke’ are not at risk of having or developing bile duct cancer. This is simply too important and the number of incidents warrant immediate attention.”
“This study is long overdue. Potential exposure to liver fluke is causing anxiety among our veterans that is unnecessarily compounded by unknowns. A study is a step towards finding firm answers to alleviate that anxiety,” said Suozzi.
“Nearly one in four Vietnam War combat veterans who participated in a study at the Northport VA tested positive for exposure to the liver fluke parasite. We cannot ignore these results, especially when liver fluke is known to cause bile duct cancer, a serious, life-threatening illnesses. These veterans served our nation bravely, and we have a responsibility to provide them with the health care services they need to live full and healthy lives,” said Rice. “That is why I am proud to co-sponsor this bill, which would require VA to conduct a comprehensive study on the prevalence of the liver fluke parasites and related illnesses among our Vietnam War veterans. This study will ensure that we develop an appropriate screening and treatment plan for all at-risk veterans and I want to thank Congressman Zeldin for introducing this important piece of legislation.”
Endemic in the rivers of Vietnam, 'Live Flukes' can easily be wiped out with a handful of pills early on, but left untreated they can live for decades without making their hosts sick. Over time, swelling and inflammation of the bile duct can lead to cancer. Jaundice, itchy skin, weight loss and other symptoms appear only when the disease is in its final stages.