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Number of U.S. troops with brain injuries from Iranian missile attacks now 109

The Pentagon announced Monday that 45 more U.S. service members were diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury from the strikes on Iraqi bases, up from 65.
Image: Ain Al-Asad Military Base, Iraq
U.S. soldiers clear rubble at Ain al-Asad airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar on Jan. 13, 2020.Ayman Henna / AFP - Getty Images file

Dozens more U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following last month's Iranian missile attacks that targeted American forces at two Iraqi bases, the Defense Department said Monday, bringing the total to 109.

Of those, 76 patients have since been returned to duty, the Pentagon said in a statement. There were 45 more cases since the department's last report, and all 109 patients have been diagnosed with what it called "mild traumatic brain injury."

"This is a snapshot in time and numbers can change," the Defense Department said.

Iran launched ballistic missiles against the two Iraqi bases on Jan. 8 in retaliation for the United States' killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, in a drone operation outside Baghdad's airport.

In late January the Pentagon had reported a total of 64 cases.

Image: Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq
A bulldozer clears rubble and debris at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar, Iraq, on Jan. 13, 2020.Qassim Abdul-Zahra / AP file

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can include concussions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No one was killed in the missile attacks. Shortly after the attacks, President Donald Trump said no one had been hurt.

Trump was criticized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and others after he said later in January that "I heard they had headaches" and that "I can report it is not very serious."

Of the 109 diagnosed patients, 27 service members were transported to Germany for treatment, and 21 of those have since been taken to the U.S., according to the Defense Department. Five are being further evaluated in Germany.

Seven others were en route from Iraq to Germany, it said.

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"The Defense Department is steadfast in its efforts to deliver programs and services intended to lead to the best possible outcomes for our service members," Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement.

"We are grateful to the efforts of our medical professionals who have worked diligently to ensure the appropriate level of care for our service members, which has enabled nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty," she said. "We must continue to address physical and mental health together."

Pentagon officials have said the symptoms of TBI can manifest themselves over time. The CDC also says that some symptoms of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries can appear right away but that other symptoms might not be noticed for days or months.

The Defense Department said Monday that it will continue to provide updates as they become available.

While no one was reported killed in the missile attacks, Iran's military mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane that had taken off from Tehran's airport hours after the launches. All 176 people aboard were killed.