More than 100 U.S. soldiers have been infected with pneumonia.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – U.S. forces in Iraq say they’re more concerned about guerrilla attacks and the heat than about a pneumonia outbreak that has killed two soldiers and sent more than a dozen to Europe for medical care.

In Washington, military health care experts say they have issued new guidelines to fight the illness, but more than a dozen soldiers interviewed Wednesday by The Associated Press in Baghdad and Tikrit said they haven’t seen them.

“That’s news to me,” said Staff Sgt. Julian Oliver, 28. “They have put out nothing on it.”

He and six other soldiers manned a checkpoint on the 14th of July Bridge in the capital, Baghdad.

“I don’t know how it’s possible to get pneumonia in this heat,” said Oliver, of New York City, sweat streaming down his face. “There is more danger out there for me and my soldiers than pneumonia.”

More than 100 soldiers on duty in Iraq have been infected with pneumonia since March 1, according to Col. Guy Shields, a top military spokesman in Baghdad. Fourteen of the cases were serious enough to merit evacuation to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. Shields said nine have recovered and three remain hospitalized.

The soldiers who talked to AP said they were more worried about the near daily guerrilla attacks and avoiding heat stroke than pneumonia, an inflammation of the lungs that can be triggered by a variety of bacteria and viruses.

“It’s the lowest of my worries here,” said Spc. Brian Richter, 21, of Dayton, Wash.

Others, including Capt. Alex Morales, 39, a medic with the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment in Tikrit, said soldiers have heard about the outbreak, but have more important worries.

“It’s not that pneumonia isn’t important. It’s just not high on our radar screen,” said Morales, of New York City, adding attacks against soldiers by rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs were “more real.”

Morales said the Army has sent out special forms to track new cases of pneumonia.

The guerrilla campaign against American occupiers in Iraq has claimed 52 lives since May 1, the day President Bush declared major combat in the country over.

The military has said soldiers throughout Iraq are being attacked an average of 12 times daily.

Military officials in Washington advised the nearly 160,000 troops in Iraq to take precautions against pneumonia by avoiding dehydration in temperatures that have topped 120 degrees and avoiding the omnipresent dust by wearing masks.

Iraq has been plagued by dust storms recently with brief, quick winds whipping up funnel clouds as high as five stories in some areas of the country of nearly 25 million. With no rain, the dust has been rampant.

Despite the guidelines, soldiers told AP they had yet to receive copies. Drinking plenty of water has been a priority since they marched through the country in March and April, but directives to water down dusty surfaces or wear masks haven’t been publicized.

“If we start seeing that, it could cause problems,” said Morales, likening it to fear over the outbreak earlier this year of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Spc. Brandi Schneider, 24, of Austin, Texas, a medic with the 401st Military Police Co., 2nd Battalion in Tikrit, said any information can help soldiers.

“If you have a bunch of sick soldiers, you can’t be effective,” he said.

Army Sgt. Michael L. Tosto, 24, a tank driver, died June 17 from pneumonia that developed rapidly and killed him before he was airlifted from Baghdad to Germany. Spc. Joshua M. Neusche, 20, of Montreal, Mo., died July 12 in Germany after contracting the virus in Iraq.

First Sgt. Abel Tavera, 36, said Tosto was in his unit and developed what was thought to be a cold. However, he became so sick that Tavera took him to a medic in Baghdad.

“Three or four days later, they called me to identify the body in Camp Wolf in Kuwait City,” said Tavera, of New York City.

A six-person team, including infectious disease experts, is being to sent to Iraq to analyze soil, air and water samples, Pentagon officials said. Two other experts have been sent to Landstuhl.



EDITOR’S NOTE – AP Writer D’Arcy Doran in Tikrit contributed to this report.

AP-ES-08-06-03 1518EDT



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