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Friday, January 29, 1999 Published at 04:09 GMT


Gulf veterans slam MoD report

Gulf War veterans say the MoD report is a "cover-up"

Gulf War veterans have slammed the first Ministry of Defence (MoD) report on Gulf War Syndrome which finds no evidence of a single cause for veterans' symptoms.

BBC Defence Correspondent Mark Laity: "The veterans have a case"
The report suggests many of the symptoms of the illness could be put down to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The National Gulf Veterans' and Families' Association called the research "an outrageous attempt to cover up Gulf War Illness" and demanded an independent study.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal, is based on the MoD's medical assessment programme for Gulf War veterans, which began in 1993.

It analyses information on the first 1,000 veterans who came forward for the programme.

Main symptoms

It found that the main symptoms suffered by ex-service men and women were fatigue; affective disorders including mood swings and depression; respiratory conditions and musculoskeletal disorders.

Some 19% suffered from psychiatric conditions and half of these had post-traumatic stress disorder, said the report.

Many patients had more than one of the 19 broad categories of symptoms devised by the MoD.

On average, patients were diagnosed as having five symptoms and 191 suffered from more than 10 symptoms.

Report unrepresentative

The findings in the report echo recent research by the Gulf War Research Unit which rejected the existence of any specific Gulf War Syndrome.

It, however, confirmed that Gulf War veterans were twice as likely to be ill as service personnel who did not serve in the 1991 conflict.

MoD doctors say their report's findings do not reflect the prevalence of disease in veterans because the patients were self-selecting and do not properly represent all personnel who served in the Gulf.

Unlike the Gulf War Research Unit report, which compared Gulf War veterans with personnel who served in Bosnia, there was no control group in the MoD study.

Post-war syndrome

But the researchers conclude that war service in the past has "often been associated with illness occurring in the post-war period".

"Could some of the illnesses in the Gulf War veterans be explained by a post-war syndrome?" they ask.

But Shaun Rusling of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association (NGVFA) said the report was a fudge, intended to block negligence claims.

[ image: Doug Henderson welcomed the report]
Doug Henderson welcomed the report
He said it had ignored some illnesses suffered by veterans, such as cancer.

He claimed 400 veterans had died since the war and this had been ignored by the report. "It is obscene and totally unacceptable," he stated.

He also accused the researchers of failing to look at possible links between symptoms and the vaccinations given to veterans before they went to the Gulf.

The NGVFA believes the cocktail of vaccinations they were given, combined with exposure to nerve agents and organophosphates, have caused their illnesses.

'Extremely unlucky'

Mr Rusling, 39, who was a paratrooper in the war, says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and osteoporosis.

"To suffer from one of these conditions is unlucky, but you have to be extremely unlucky to suffer from all four at once," he said.

But Armed Forces Minister Douglas Henderson welcomed the report.

He said "I am very pleased that detailed information about the types of illness being suffered by some Gulf veterans has now been published.

"As I have said before, we are determined to do everything we can to understand why some Gulf War veterans are now ill, including looking at possible causes and supporting any appropriate treatments.

"The MoD will continue its policy of vigorously addressing the health concerns of Gulf veterans."

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