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Home » About » Major Litigation » The Agent Orange Litigation » Carol Annia Yannacone: caring about the victims of Agent Orange » Melioidosis, a tropical killer, ambushed Vietnam combat veterans

Melioidosis, a tropical killer, ambushed Viet Nam combat veterans

The killer tropical disease melioidosis came home with the Vietnam combat veterans and can still strike without warning. The Veterans Administration could have tested the returning veterans to see whether they carried the disease but didn’t—and still won’t!
Melioidosis—little known but deadly

It was not just the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army that set ambushes and laid anti-personnel booby traps for our American soldiers in Vietnam during the war in Southeast Asia. A little known but deadly tropical disease, Melioidosis, silently infected an estimated 300,000 Americans who served “in country.” This opportunistic disease was hardly known in the United States except in rare cases along our Southern borders.

Melioidosis rarely appeared among the veterans until their immune system had been compromised. And that is just what exposure to dioxin contaminated phenoxy herbicides did. It compromised the immune system of the veterans much the same as the HIV virus compromises the immune system of its victims.

Melioidosis presents as a raging virulent bacterial infection and the conventional treatment during the 1970s and until the Agent Orange litigation began was ever increasing doses of the most potent anti-bacterial drugs until the veteran eventually died two or three weeks later.

Leonard Rivkin and Dow researchers provide the cure

As the Agent Orange litigation moved through the Courts, researchers at the chemical company war contractors frantically searched for other causes why Vietnam combat veterans—all of whom were supposed to be the healthiest and fittest of American youth when they arrived “in country” shortly after their 18th birthday—were dying from the diseases of old age before they turned 40. One of the possible sources of early death among the Vietnam veterans which Dow researchers discovered was Melioidosis.

As soon as the information reached Leonard L. Rivkin, the lead attorney for Dow Chemical Company who was recognized by Judge Pratt as the de facto leader of the defendant war contractors legal team, the information arrived at the Yannacone law office by messenger in a plain unmarked manila envelope.

Melioidosis was resistant to all the antibiotics in use at the time except tetracycline which had been relegated to use on animals by veterinarians because it stained the permanent teeth of most adolescents. Carol Yannacone immediately put the key information out on the Agent Orange victims family telephone grapevine: If a veteran presented with a bacterial infection, use tetracycline immediately!

Leonard Rivkin who was seriously wounded and earned two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star during combat in Europe in World War II had again saved the lives of American soldiers.

Melioidosis: the silent unexpected killer

Melioidosis 19790917 Newsday