Watch out for snakes. Avoid radioactive waste. And don't drink the water. That's some of the advice offered online to troops via the Pentagon's new Deployment Health and Family Readiness Library (http://deploymenthealthlibrary.fhp.osd.mil/home.jsp).
For example, "A Soldier's Guide to Staying Healthy in Afghanistan and Pakistan" suggests that, to avoid cholera, hepatitis A and E and typhoid fever, "assume all non-approved food, ice and water is contaminated," even bottled water.
Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are not the only hidden hazards facing soldiers. The guide, issued by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, warns that the region's "several species of poisonous snakes, which are well camouflaged and very aggressive," should not be handled.
Limited Exposure The library includes a bulletin regarding the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, "the center of Iraq's nuclear research for the last several decades." SOP: Stay out of contaminated buildings and wash your hands immediately after leaving an area containing radioactive material.
Another addresses depleted uranium, or DU, which is found in some U.S. munitions and tank armor. "The level of radiation from DU is so low that it poses little if any hazard," says the information sheet, adding, "Because DU is a heavy metal similar to lead, the potential exists for short-term kidney effects to people who are exposed to high levels of the substance. Few, if any, service members would come into contact with enough DU to incur this risk, however."
Debugging To deal with ticks, mosquitoes, flies and lice, the military recommends DEET on the skin and permethrin on clothing. According to a bulletin, soldiers should not wear the flea and tick collars that some receive in care packages from home. Sweat draws out the collars' chemicals, which can burn the skin and possibly damage internal organs.
-- Tom Graham