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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 05:01 GMT 06:01 UK
Gulf War Syndrome fear persists
Soldier being injected
Some research says vaccines may cause "Gulf War Syndrome"
Nearly one in five veterans believes they have Gulf War syndrome, research has found.

A team from the Gulf War Research Unit at King's College London sent questionnaires to a large random sample of British service personnel who served in the 1991 Gulf War.


A high proportion of people who served in the Gulf feel ill as a result of symptoms which they have labelled as Gulf War Syndrome

Dr Matthew Hotopf
Of 2,961 respondents, 17% believed they had Gulf War syndrome.

If this sample is representative, about 9,000 of 53,000 British service personnel believe they have contracted it.

The existence of Gulf War syndrome is hotly disputed in medical circles.

The term has been used to describe a variety of symptoms and illnesses experienced by veterans of the conflict.

Due to the variety of symptoms reported by veterans, some believe that Gulf War Syndrome may be a collection of different illnesses with different causes rather than a single one.

The symptoms include insomnia, fatigue, headaches, confusing, joint and muscle pain, nausea, swollen glands and fevers.

The researchers found that those people who thought they had Gulf War syndrome were in a poorer state of health than those who did not.

They also found that personnel who thought they had Gulf War syndrome were more likely to know someone else who also believed they had the condition.

Vaccinations

However, they were also more likely to have received a high number of vaccinations before deployment to the Gulf.

Many have claimed they are ill as a result of exposure to organophosphates or the chemicals contained in injections designed to protect personnel from biological warfare methods.

The Ministry of Defence runs a medical assessment programme available to any Gulf War veteran concerned about their health.

"Alarming" findings

However, the number of veterans making inquiries is declining, and the future of the programme is in doubt.

The researchers say that because people who serve in the armed forces are partly chosen because of their good health, their findings are "alarming".

They also warn that armed forces personnel may be less inclined to take part in health protection programmes intended to protect against the threat of chemical and biological warfare.

Researcher Dr Matthew Hotopf told BBC News Online: "A high proportion of people who served in the Gulf feel ill as a result of symptoms which they have labelled as Gulf War Syndrome."

He said that he was not convinced that there was one specific Gulf War Syndrome.

But Dr Hotopf said the evidence did suggest that serving in the Gulf had damaged some people's health.

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

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"It is not clear what causes these illnesses"
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