The dry desert landscapes located in the middle east are well known for containing numerous scorpion species. While native middle easterners may be familiar with many of the most venomous scorpions that exist within the region, non-natives in the region usually are not. Unfortunately, antivenoms that treat stings inflicted by middle eastern scorpion species are relatively lacking. Therefore, it is important for foreigners to be on the lookout for scorpions in the middle east, as the health consequences of a native scorpion sting can be serious, and in some cases, life threatening. Not surprisingly, many American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq have fallen victim to dangerous scorpion stings, as most American troops were not aware of the scorpion threat before deployment.
American troops that were stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War in the early 90s quickly learned that scorpions were an ever present threat in the region. In one year 2,400 American troops out of 100,000 suffered scorpion stings while on base in Saudi Arabia. This is a whopping amount considering that only 16 out of 100,000 people in the nearby country of Oman suffer scorpion stings every year. The highest recorded rate of scorpion stings in the middle east is 1,000 out of 100,000. Considering these numbers, it is easy to conclude that American troops may not have been made aware of the scorpion threat prior to deployment.
During the more recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, scorpion sting rates among American troops likely remained high. Although no official statistics have been produced, soldiers returning to the US from the middle east self-reported spider and scorpion stings equaling 46.1 out of only 10,000. The probability of an American soldier sustaining a scorpion sting varies depending on location, season and rank.
One of the most venomous scorpions native to the middle east is the fat-tailed scorpion. The Buthidae scorpion family includes the fat-tailed scorpion as well as many other highly venomous species. A sting from one of these species can result in shock, respiratory failure, pulmonary edema, coma and/or death.
Do you known someone who sustained a scorpion sting while deployed overseas?