Coxiella Burnetii - the bacteria that causes Q fever CREDIT NIAID
Health and Fitness

Soldiers Deployed To Afghanistan 'Weren’t Informed About Q-Fever'

There was no mention of Q fever during pre-deployment training, according to an Army reservist who completed two tours.

Coxiella Burnetii - the bacteria that causes Q fever CREDIT NIAID

Usually harmless to humans, Q fever can lead to pneumonia, hepatitis, organ damage, chronic fatigue syndrome and serious heart conditions (Picture: NIAID).

The court case in which a former soldier is suing the MOD after catching Q fever in Afghanistan has raised questions about what kind of training and advice was given to troops before deployment.

Tens of thousands of British troops were deployed. One British veteran, who doesn’t want to be named, has told us Q fever was never mentioned.

Military personnel undergo rigorous pre-deployment training (PDT), some of which takes place at the Reinforcements Training Mobilisation Centre in Chilwell, close to Nottingham.

As a reservist, the process takes slightly longer to allow the Military Annual Training Tests and medical or dental checks to be completed.

There are lengthy briefings covering basic levels of conversational language skills and cultural training. 

A large emphasis is put on medical training, ranging from being able to respond to emergencies and apply life-saving first aid, to preventative measures of heat-related illnesses.

Drinking bottled water and regularly cleaning out issued camelbacks (or water carriers) features heavily throughout, as does the obsessive washing of hands, required before and after any mealtimes and during the day.

Diarrhoeal and gastrointestinal infections can be common if deployed overseas and preventative treatment is essential.

Sheep CREDIT Elia Clerici from Unsplash
The NHS defines Q fever as a "bacterial infection you can catch from infected farm animals" (Elia Clerici/Unsplash).

The risks and subsequent prevention of malaria was treated as a high priority.

Mosquito nets of various sizes were issued, strong varieties of insect repellents and anti-malarial medication were prescribed, along with malarial-risk warning cards and advice on preventing exposure.

There were warnings about keeping away from animals but no offer of the rabies vaccine, despite it being a prevalent disease in Afghanistan and a country deemed as ‘high risk’ by the British Government.

At no point was there a warning of Q fever or any mention of the existence of such a disease.

Soldiers are issued a large amount of military kit including sets of uniform, body armour and specialist under and outerwear to protect against effects from Improvised Explosive Devices.

A further week of training - known as Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI) - awaits troops when they arrive in Camp Bastion from the UK.

RSOI training reinforces what you are taught at Chilwell, with the emphasis on adapting to the considerable changes in temperature, which in Afghanistan can reach excesses of 40 degrees Celsius during summer.

It also allows for any new or emerging threats and information to be passed onto personnel directly before they are moved out of Camp Bastion and onwards to various locations in the country.

Again, there was no mention of Q fever at this stage, or throughout the two tours of Afghanistan the reservist completed, on Operation Herrick 14 and 16.

Did you serve in Afghanistan? Send us your thoughts on how well you were prepared for your deployment.