No, not the media, but hazards of duty in Iraq - the Kurdistan Viper (deadly), the Death Stalker Scorpion (um, with a name like that it has to be deadly), and Camel Spiders (harmless). The article below was written by Specialist Anna-Marie Hizer:
KIRKUK, Iraq (May 27, 2006) -- Being aware of ones surroundings is a
skill Soldiers constantly maintain and seek to improve. However, one
potential hazard for troops in Northern Iraq may be easily missed. And
it is right under their feet.
Temperatures in Iraq are rising steadily, and with the heat come more
wildlife sharing land -- and living space -- with their human
counterparts. One type of critter that Iraq has no shortage of is
reptiles. Many Soldiers have probably seen the small yellow lizards
climbing walls or scurrying along walkways. These harmless dune geckos
are a common sight throughout much of the Middle East -- but not all
desert-dwelling reptiles are so benign.
One critter that has been found on Forward Operating Base Warrior is
the Kurdistan Viper. This snake produces hemotoxic venom which destroys
blood cells, causes tissue damage and can cause internal hemorrhaging
in bite victims. In addition, Saw-Scaled Vipers, another serpent found
across Iraq, have been spotted on the FOB. These vipers are considered
the most toxic of the group and present the greatest potential for
severe tissue damage and hemorrhage...
...Of course, as with most snakes, they will try to escape human contact
without having to use their venom -- which not only kills prey, but
also aids in digestion. But in some circumstances, when the animal
feels cornered or threatened, it will strike.
“Prevention is the best cure,” said Army Maj. Ken Brooks, physician’s
assistant, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st
Airborne Division. “Use common sense; don’t put your hands in places
that could house a snake.”
In addition, Brooks said one surefire way to attract snakes to living quarters is having food lying around.
“Food attracts [rodents],” he said, “vermin attract snakes.”
If snakes are not enough, Iraq also boasts a collection of deadly scorpions.
Death Stalker Scorpions, perhaps the most toxic type of scorpions on
earth, along with Fat-Tailed Scorpions, roam the Iraqi desert, usually
preying on insects and small lizards.
However, these invertebrates occasionally show up in human habitats.
“You leave your boots on the ground, your clothing on the ground [they
want to get where it’s cool],” said Air Force Maj. Armando Rosales,
Public Health Officer, 506th Expeditionary Medical Squadron. “Make sure
you shake everything out and check … and watch where you’re stepping.”
In addition to snakes and scorpions, the Middle East is home to another
bug -- one that is infamous among service members and is also highly
Camel Spiders have spawned many rumors within the military over decades
of service in the Middle East. However, the majority of these stories
are untrue. Camel Spiders, which are not actually spiders at all,
belong to the family Solifugae. They are not dangerous to humans and
pose no threat to camels, either. Their bite can be painful, due to the
animal’s large chelicerae, which are used to crush and chew smaller
arthropods such as spiders and scorpions, but they have no ‘paralytic
venom,’ as some rumors suggest.
Both Rosales and Brooks agree that the chance of being bitten or stung
is slim; however, service members should be aware of where they are
walking and where they place their hands. Additionally, Brooks noted
personnel should walk to showers and latrines in full shoes -- not
flip-flops or sandals.
Another risk some people take is actively playing with dangerous
animals. Making scorpions fight or trying to make a viper the company
mascot is not only against regulations, but could also lead to serious
Not all Iraq’s reptiles are venomous. But to play it safe, Rosales said
people should leave any exothermic or arthropod critters alone. If an
individual does happen to find the wrong end of a scorpion or snake,
the first thing to remember is to remain calm. Panicking increases
heart rate, which speeds up the circulation of venom through the
Next the person should try and ice the site and bandage it. But, as Rosario warns, do not attempt to treat the bite yourself.
“You definitely don’t want to do any home remedies Like cutting the
wound open and sucking out the venom,” he said. “” A home remedy can do
more harm than good, by envenoming both individuals.
He also said the victim or a buddy should try to identify the animal or
bug. This way, medical personnel can have a better idea of how to treat
the bite, and what, if any, antivenin is needed.
So while scorpions, snakes and spiders do not pose the daily
threat troops are used to in the desert, everyone should be aware of
what is out there, especially things that could lurk in an overturned