Defining Gulf War Illness
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In November 1997, CDC funded a study to characterize and compare different approaches for defining the medically unexplained illnesses of Gulf War veterans. This study by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School compared the symptoms of two groups of Gulf War veterans at two points in time. The study subjects included Gulf War veterans from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Gulf War Registry who had participated in a previous study conducted by the New Jersey researchers, and veterans who had participated in the CDC Air Force study. Data-driven case definitions for illness previously derived from these two groups of Gulf War veterans were compared with standard or existing case definitions for unexplained multi-symptom illnesses (such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivity) to determine which definition best characterized Gulf War veterans’ unexplained illnesses. The study also tried to determine how well the derived and existing case definitions could be generalized in a new random sample of deployed and nondeployed Gulf War era veterans and active duty soldiers. The investigators are preparing manuscripts for publication which are expected by the end of 2005.