GI Back From Haiti Stricken With Rare Infection

WPTV Reported by: Bryan Garner  Feb 24, 2010- 10:21 am

STUART, FL — U.S. Army Warrant Officer Chris Lust of Stuart is recovering from a rare bacterial infection which he contracted while helping with the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

Lust says he was helping distribute food to earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince when he became ill.

“Real bad body aches…right before I experienced spiking temperatures, from 103-105….I was getting real cold…cold sweats…and I get so cold I started shaking,” said Lust, speaking from his hospital bed at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa.

He says he was flown to the U.S. Navy ship Comfort, anchored off the coast of Port-au-Prince, for treatment.

At first he was told he suffered from dengue fever, or possibly malaria.  But when he arrived at the VA hospital in Tampa, doctors changed the diagnosis to leptospirosis (, he said.

According to the World Health Organization leptospirosis is a rare and severe bacterial infection that is endemic in Haiti.  The WHO reports infection in humans may occur when the bacteria come into contact with the skin, typically through contact with unclean water that has been infected by animals.

“It’s kind of like they’re writing a blank check when they go into these places and it might cost them their life,” said Lorilei Lust, Chris’ mother.

She visited her son at the VA hospital and said he experienced seizure-like symptoms and painful headaches.

Lust was transferred out of the I.C.U. on Saturday.  He says doctors plan to fly him to San Antonio for follow-up care within the week when he’s able to make the move.

U.S. Army spokesperson Gary Tallman said he could not comment on this case as it would violate personal privacy laws.  When asked if other soldiers have become ill following service in Haiti, Tallman said he would try to find out.

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