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Monday, September 21, 1998 Published at 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK


Gulf War vets welcome 'groundbreaking' research

Gulf War veterans say the US research could help their case for support

Gulf war veterans in the UK have welcomed an American report which identifies the main symptoms of so-called Gulf War syndrome.

The report by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention identifies, for the first time, three categories of symptoms of the disease.

Armed forces minister Douglas Henderson has called the research "groundbreaking" and says it is the first study to show the syndrome as a "definable disease".

The researchers studied 4,000 US soldiers, over 1,000 of whom had served in the Gulf War.

It identified three main categories of symptoms suffered by Gulf War veterans: muscular and skeletal disorders, known collectively as fibromyalgia, and psychological dysfunction.

The research found that 40% of Gulf War veterans suffered from two or three of the categories, compared with just 14% of the other soldiers.

Step forward

Shaun Rusling, chairman of the National Gulf Veterans' and Families' Association, said he believed 80% of British Gulf War veterans suffered from fibromyalgia and all had psychological dysfunctions.

He called the new research "a step in the right direction" and said the association would be renewing its calls for medical help based on the report's findings.

[ image: Douglas Henderson met with Gulf War veterans on Friday]
Douglas Henderson met with Gulf War veterans on Friday
However, he did not expect to have any success until information on what caused the syndrome was forthcoming.

Mr Rusling met Mr Henderson on Friday, but did not discuss the report.

The government has so far refused to accept any responsibility for Gulf War syndrome, although the MoD is involved in joint research with the US Defence Department on the illness.

The MoD study is expected to be published at the turn of the year.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Mr Rusling, who served as a medical technician in the Gulf, said the government had always put the psychological disorders of Gulf War veterans down to post-traumatic stress disorder.

But he said this would not explain why people not on the frontline had become ill.

The association believes the symptoms are due to the vaccinations they were given before they were sent to serve in the Gulf.

They want the government to come clean on what combination they were given and say that, until it does, it will be impossible for doctors to treat them.

Mr Rusling claims 257 veterans have died since the war, most from suicide but many from "chemically-induced cancers".

"What has happened is nothing more than grevious bodily harm and manslaughter to troops serving in the Gulf," he claimed.

He added that Mr Henderson seemed "quite keen" to help veterans obtain information on the vaccinations they had received.

But he said civil servants appeared to be against the idea.

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