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Ex Soldier Who Sued MOD After Contracting Q Fever In Afghanistan Loses Case

Wayne Bass said his life has been ruined after serving in Helmand Province in 2011 and 2012 without being given antibiotics by the Army.

British troops in South Sudan

(Picture: MOD).

A former soldier who accused the Ministry of Defence (MOD) of breaching its duty of care over its failure to protect him from contracting Q Fever in Afghanistan has lost his case.

Wayne Bass, who served as a private in the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, said his life has been ruined after serving in Helmand Province in 2011 and 2012 without being given antibiotics by the Army.

Humans can catch Q Fever after breathing in dust from the faeces of infected farm animals such as sheep, cattle and goats.

During his tour, Mr Bass was in contact with goats and sheep and "was often required to take cover and jump through ditches and crawl along the ground, coming into contact with animal products and excrement", his lawyers said.

Mr Bass, 34, was medically discharged from the Army in 2014 because of his Q Fever and chronic fatigue symptoms.

But Judge Heather Baucher QC, sitting at the Central London County Court on Friday, said the MOD had not breached its duty of care to Mr Bass.

In her written judgement Judge Baucher said that the risk of Q Fever was "low" and there was no evidence to suggest this had changed when Mr Bass was deployed.

She added: "There was nothing the defendant could do to avoid exposure to Q Fever, save not to deploy troops to Afghanistan.

Dr Muhammad Munir, a virologist from Lancaster University, spoke to Forces News about Q Fever.

Theo Huckle QC, representing Mr Bass, had previously told the court that, as his employer, the MOD should have identified the risks to him and taken "all reasonable steps to minimise, remove or minimise the risks".

In court documents setting out the case, it is argued that the MOD should have considered using doxycycline, an antibiotic used to treat Q Fever, as an anti-malarial drug.

But Judge Baucher said there was no evidence to support claims that doxycycline would have been an effective preventative measure for Q Fever.

She added: 

"It follows therefore that, irrespective of breach, that claimant cannot prove his case on causation."

Judge Baucher added:

"I know the outcome will be a disappointment to Mr Bass.

"I was impressed with his resilience and demeanour during the course of the trial. I hope that now the case has been determined he can find a way to move forward."

The most common way Q Fever spreads to humans is by close contact with farm animals such as sheep (Picture: Nima Hatami).

It was the first case to test the MoD's duty to protect against Q Fever, said Hilary Meredith Solicitors, the firm acting for Mr Bass.

In a statement after the decision, Dianne Yates, a director at the firm, said: "We will consider this judgment in detail before deciding on the best way forward for our client.

"Mr Bass, who was discharged from the Army in 2014, remains in poor health as a result of the Q Fever he contracted in Afghanistan.

"While considering Mr Bass's options - including a potential appeal against this judgment - we will continue to support him in every way we can.

"We would urge the Ministry of Defence to do the same. His best interests must come first."

An MOD spokesperson said:

“The MOD follows the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which does not recommend vaccination for Q Fever.

"We carefully consider all claims and pay compensation where there is a legal obligation to do so.”

Diagnosis of the bacterium, Coxiella Burnetii, is normally determined through a blood test and treatment of a one to two-week course of antibiotics (Picture: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases).
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