Alarm as Afghan bug spreads to more servicemen

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The Independent Online

More British servicemen in Afghanistan have fallen ill with the mystery sickness at their headquarters in Bagram airbase.

More British servicemen in Afghanistan have fallen ill with the mystery sickness at their headquarters in Bagram airbase.

The number of cases has risen to 26 with the disease spreading beyond the source of the original outbreak, a field hospital unit. Two of the victims are said to be seriously ill.One of them, said to be suffering from kidney complications, is being flown back to Britain.

Last night the Ministry of Defence said that an anaesthetist, who is suspected of bringing the disease back to Britain, has been cleared after a check up.

However, despite a strict quarantine of certain areas at Bagram, a vast former Soviet airbase, the bug has spread with increasing worries about the more than 4,000 British and coalition forces stationed there.

The new cases are at Camp Gibraltar, home to the Royal Marines of 45 Commando, and Camp Hacienda, where special forces are based.

The bug appears to be spreading without direct contact with those affected and it may be airborne. The symptoms are fever, vomiting and severe stomach cramps. Apart from the one severely ill, seven soldiers have been airlifted to Britain for treatment and one to a US base in Germany.

Lieutenant Colonel Ben Curry, the British forces spokesman at Bagram, said that a bio-terrorist attack has been ruled out. " There is absolutely no reason to suggest that is the case", he said.

The MoD is flying out two specialists in the field of communicable diseases to Afghanistan, while scientists are working to try to isolate the illness, known as Enteric Febrile Illness.

Dr Paul Clarke, a former military medical consultant who specialises in infectious diseases, said " This kind of thing is common in countries where there are poor sewage systems and other public health facilities."

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