New York Times Foreign Correspondent Anthony Shadid Has Died

New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid survived a gunshot wound in 2002 while covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He survived being kidnapped and beaten by Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in Libya’s uprising last year.

And he was covering yet another dangerous story yesterday-the resistance movement in Syria- when he suffered a fatal asthma attack. Shadid was 43 years old.

Shadid was an American of Lebanese descent who spoke fluent Arabic. He had been covering stories of conflict and turmoil in the Middle East for nearly two decades. He twice won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Iraq War as a reporter for the Washington Post in 2004 and 2010 and was nominated by the Times this year for his coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Shadid was a known asthmatic, and had his medications with him in Syria. He reportedly had some difficulty with asthma earlier in the week, when he was in close proximity to his guide’s horses. He had a more severe attack yesterday, once again after exposure to horses, and was unable to be resuscitated.

Jill Abramson, the executive editor of the New York Times said of Shadid:

Anthony died as he lived — determined to bear witness to the transformation sweeping the Middle East and to testify to the suffering of people caught between government oppression and opposition forces.

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs which affects 22 million Americans.

Asthma causes recurrent episodes of wheezing (a whistling sound with breathing), chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.

People who have asthma have inflamed airways. This makes the airways swollen and very sensitive. They tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances.

When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten. This narrows the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs. The swelling also can worsen, making the airways even narrower. Cells in the airways may make more mucus than normal. This sticky, thick liquid narrows the airways even more.

This chain reaction can result in asthma symptoms. Symptoms can happen any time the airways are inflamed.

Figure A shows the location of the lungs and airways in the body. Figure B shows a cross-section of a normal airway. Figure C shows a cross-section of an airway during asthma symptoms. (Source: NHLBI)







What triggers asthma?

There are many triggers for asthma, the most common of which include:

  • Upper respiratory infections like colds and flu
  • Exposure to allergens, such as dust, animal dander, mold
  • Exercise
  • Stress and strong emotions
  • Inhalation of irritating substances such as smoke, aerosols. air pollution
  • Cold temperatures
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (a condition where stomach acids back up into the esophagus)

 What is the prognosis for asthma?

Asthma is a long-term disease for which there is no cure. The goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease. Good asthma control will:

  • Prevent chronic and troublesome symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath
  • Reduce the need for quick-relief medicines (see our story about asthma medications by clicking here.)
  • Help  maintain good lung function
  • Let patients maintain a normal activity level and sleep through the night
  • Prevent asthma attacks that could result in an emergency room visit or hospital stay

For more information about asthma, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Do you or someone you know have asthma? What triggers it for you? How do you deal with the disease?


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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