Mystery Illness
May 21, 2002 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Mystery Illness such a mystery? Help needed! (old news, new information?) OK, I'm going to try and do this without naming names... The British troops in Afghanistan have been struck down by a mystery illness recently, with an investigation finding that the illness was just a "winter vomiting" bug.
I've heard different. The source may have been an Al Qaeda terrorist who had been captured. The 'mystery illness' may have been caught when the British or US government used biological warfare to make it easier to find and capture members of Al Qaeda. Can anyone help verify this? I should stress I only have word of mouth from a friend of a friend. All very speculative, but I've not been able to find anything else on this... yet...
posted by snowgoon (13 comments total)
The 'mystery illness' may have been caught when the British or US government used biological warfare to make it easier to find and capture members of Al Qaeda.

Care to elaborate?

How would bio warfare make it easier to find and capture them? Wouldn't they just die? Or are we actually practicing non-lethal biological warfare? And so what exactly do these soldiers have?
posted by junkbox at 8:28 AM on May 21, 2002

Hey look - a perfect conspiracy post. Rumors, obtained third hand, can't be confirmed through regular news outlets. Thus, somebody must be hiding something, right?
posted by Irontom at 8:32 AM on May 21, 2002

Non-lethal biological warfare that renders the opponent too ill to walk - so it seems like 'we' are NOT using biological warfare. Seems a valid tactic??
I'm not trying to create a conspiracy, just trying to see if anyone else has heard anything similar. My 'source' works in the RAF and phoned home to tell them not to worry if they heard anything like this on the news.
As I've not heard anything about this on the news, I started wondering whether is was bunkum or fact.
If it's bunkum let's kill this thread. Simple.
posted by snowgoon at 8:38 AM on May 21, 2002

Seems the forces that be are still working on Gulf War Syndrome and they have not been so quick to pin down the cause. All that seems known for sure is that the syndrome is confined to a group of guys all in same general area rather than covering a substantial geographical area, and this it seems would indicate that it is "catching" rather than an overall contaminate.
Till I have heard otherwise I will stick with the position taken by the media until such time as there is questionable evidence to suggest otherwise.
posted by Postroad at 8:40 AM on May 21, 2002

Seems fair Postroad.
posted by snowgoon at 8:41 AM on May 21, 2002

Afghanistan is, however, a nice breeding ground for all sorts of pathogens and viruses. There have been Congo-Crimean fever outbreaks and cholera epidemics in the last couple years (among others) and so it sure wouldn't surprise me if outsiders spending time there had health problems that simply occurred naturally.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 8:50 AM on May 21, 2002

Thanks for the info zoopraxiscope. Knowledge is power and all that...
posted by snowgoon at 8:54 AM on May 21, 2002

I'd been tentatively presuming they might have stumbled across the bits and pieces of a bioweapon in one of the abandoned al-Qa'ida nests they keep saying they've found.

Let's face it, movies alone have inured us so much to thinking in terms of X-Files-meets-Outbreak that we're not going to believe it's the same ol' bug we all had a few months ago even if that's what it is.

(Or alternatively, I guess: You mean a few months ago this is what we had....?!)
posted by CatherineB at 10:56 AM on May 21, 2002

Using an infectious but non-lethal biological agent in Afghanistan would be a rather clever way of tagging certain otherwise indistinguishable persons as they then fan out across the world.

I'm only speculating, but it would be a great way to track the bad guys as they become operative...
posted by BentPenguin at 11:04 AM on May 21, 2002

This Link from Sundays Observer attributes deep cuts in defence spending as causing a shortage of medical expertise in the UK army. Unable to employ trained medics with specialisation in the diseases of the areas they are fighting in, they wasted lots of time in sending samples and patients back to the UK before the cause was identified.

The bug itself shut numerous schools and hospitals around Christmas. It was rather severe for a 'common winter vomiting virus' - not like anything I had ever noticed before. Those affected would progress from fine to vomiting and severe diarrhoea within a matter of minutes, lasting 24-36 hours. As quick as it started it would be gone.

Interestingly, a colleague at University College Hospital in London claimed the air expelled during the, er, projectile episodes was the main vector for the virus and advised me to stay away from any toilet other than my own if anyone was infected. I managed to avoid infection unlike many others.

Of course this so-called Winter Vomiting Virus might actually have been the UK Government testing a 'safe' version of the virus they have now unleashed in Afghanistan, 'accidentally' infecting a few of their own troops. Ah, sorry, must go see what the men in the black vans that have just pulled up outside want....
posted by barnsoir at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2002

Not even seems to buy this shit, guys
posted by matteo at 12:28 PM on May 21, 2002

An infectious agent as a method of tagging people? C'mon, it's infectious. A week later and it's useless, because you have twenty times as many false positives.

I'd agree there's a slim chance of a bioweapon -- I was very nervous during that whole period when Al Qaeda safe houses were being stripped bare and vials and powders were just lying around for the, um, taking. If you dared.

But quite apart from Afghanistan as some kind of preternatural breeding ground, military deployments throughout history have been dogged by the specter of infectious disease as troops with no natural exposure encounter brand new bugs. The 1918 flu was initially spread by soldiers and sailors; and malaria felled more troops than gunshot in the 1898 US deployment to Cuba; and two thirds of all military Civil War casualties were not due to wounds received in battle. So this is not exceptionally surprising, nor is it in itself even necessarily suggestive of bacteriological weaponry.
posted by dhartung at 1:59 PM on May 21, 2002

An infectious agent as a method of tagging people? C'mon, it's infectious. A week later and it's useless, because you have twenty times as many false positives.

You assume that all disease agents are permanently infectious. In fact, plenty are briefly infectious while the evidence of infection remains long afterwards. Anyone they happen to pass that infection to in the window of infectivity is likely to be worthy of getting tagged, seeing as they're hanging out with terrorists.
posted by BentPenguin at 4:05 PM on May 21, 2002

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