Taking the consequences of military related illness and diseases in order of importance from a humanitarian standpoint inevitably places the pain and suffering of the service personnel who contract diseases and fall ill through no fault of their own unquestionably in the number one position. Some of the diseases members of the military can be exposed to in far flung corners of the globe can be extremely unpleasant and even potentially fatal, such as Coxiella Durnetii which can cause inflammation of the heart or Visceral Leishmaniasis which inflicts a cocktail of adverse health outcomes, such as fever, enlargement of internal organs, weight loss and even death on its victims.
Add to those more ‘exotic’ ailments such well-known diseases as tuberculosis, malaria, influenza, various industrial diseases and a range of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), to name but a small number, and it is easy to understand the extent of the potential health perils serving members of the military might be exposed to – if their employer doesn’t comprehensively discharge their duty of care towards them. The vast majority of food, soil and water-borne diseases, industrial diseases, blood-borne infections, respiratory infections and STDs are preventable or treatable and the Ministry of Defence has a legal responsibility under current health and safety regulations to see to that they are prevented or treated.
The second most important consequence of military related illness and disease is the reduction in efficiency in the armed forces caused by servicemen and women being unavailable for duty due to having contracted a disease and fallen ill. A recent study of hospitalised and out-patient British servicemen/women carried out by the American National Institute for Health (NIH) found that within their sample, on average, those hospitalised due to disease stayed in hospital for 3 days and were off duty for 20 days. Those who were out-patients and attended hospital on average once were off duty for 22 days. Considering that on average ten to fifteen times the number of service personnel fall in due to disease (usually on operational duty) than are injured as a result of being injured in combat, the scale of the problem begins to come into focus.
At number three in the top three of consequences is the fact that service personnel, who contract diseases because their employer failed to take the necessary steps to protect them, might be able to make a claim for compensation. Many service personnel, who find themselves in this situation, for instance, suffering from malaria because they were not vaccinated or vaccinated in time or suffering from the effects of inhaling asbestos dust or some other hazardous substance, would benefit from consulting a specialist solicitor who specialises in military injury claims.
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