In what could be a landmark case, a former soldier is suing the UK’s Ministry of Defense, alleging that his life has been ruined by the army’s failure to protect him from contracting Q fever while serving in Afghanistan.
Wayne Bass picked up the bacterial infection while on active duty in Helmand Province in 2011. During that spell, he was constantly hiding in ditches where livestock had been to avoid enemy fire. Q fever can be contracted by humans who breathe in dust from the feces of infected farm animals, most commonly cattle, sheep and goats.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills or sweats, and chest pain while breathing. The infection is normally successfully treated with antibiotics but in some cases it can develop into chronic fatigue syndrome.
Bass spent periods in hospital at an MoD rehabilitation center but intravenous antibiotics failed to cure him. He now struggles to walk, quickly gets breathless and suffers continuous pain.
“On some days I’m OK, I can walk a few hundred meters but often I get breathless, have aches and pains all over my body, for which I have to take very powerful painkillers,” he said, as quoted by the BBC.
The former soldier said the disease has heightened his post-traumatic stress disorder and left him suffering from night terrors and depression.
“I feel very low and isolated, very depressed. I am on antidepressants. I can’t see a future,” he added.
The trial will examine the extent of any duty the army owed to the soldier in relation to Q fever, and whether that duty was breached. Legal experts say the outcome of the case could lead to the MoD facing more similar suits.
“This is the first case in which the question will be asked whether the MoD had a duty to protect soldiers against this known risk of Q fever, which we say was a preventable risk, and what steps it ought to have taken to protect them,” Justin Glenister, partner at Hilary Meredith Solicitors, said to Sky News.
“There are other similar cases being prepared.”
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