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GULF WAR SYNDROMEVICTIM .. AT 3 WEEKS; EXCLUSIVE Both of Scott's parents were in the British Army. Both had anthrax jabs. Now, surprise, surprise, their new-born baby is desperately ill.

Byline: MIKE HAMILTON and DAVID HUDSON

FIGHTING for breath with a mass of tubes keeping him alive, tiny Scott Bowen is Britain's youngest victim of Gulf War Syndrome.

Weighing just 2lb 4oz, the tragic tot was born two months prematurely after both his parents returned from serving in Iraq.

Dad Justin, 27, and mum Vicky, 20, had multiple vaccinations before going to war last year and developed symptoms of the Syndrome.

They are now sure the cocktail of jabs - especially the controversial anthrax shot - is behind their new-born's desperate condition.

And last night a Gulf War Syndrome expert said he was "almost certain" Scott's severe heart valve and bladder problems was caused by his parents' roles in the Iraq war.

Professor Malcolm Hooper - a member of the MoD's independent Vaccine Panel - said: "This is an extremely disturbing case. If it is nothing to do with Gulf War Syndrome I would be amazed."

Baffled doctors have told his parents they cannot think of an explanation for his conditions.

Scott will have to undergo a bladder operation when he is a year old, and medics fear he may be growth-retarded.

Justin, a private with the Royal Army Medical Corps, and Vicky, a member of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, were both called up for service in January last year.

Vicky was given two anthrax jabs plus inoculations for yellow fever, hepatitis B and typhoid. She declined to complete the voluntary course of four anthrax injections when she was in the Gulf over fears about their safety. Justin had had two anthrax jabs in Colchester in November 2002. He was advised to start the course again when he reached Kuwait in February - and had six in total.

The Government pledged not to give troops multiple jabs, which have been blamed for making thousands of Gulf War 1 veterans sick.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon even said a year ago: "A key lesson learned about inoculations is that it is not sensible to inflict on our forces a large number simultaneously."

The couple were both home in Gosport, Hants, by the end of May last year, and within weeks Vicky was pregnant. Scott had to be delivered by caesarean section on January 7 after scans showed problems in the womb.

Vicky says: "I suddenly started having contractions. I was in hospital for three days as doctors tried to stop my labour. Then Scott's heart rate dropped. Because of the way he was lying, the doctors could not be sure if he had developed all his organs. His only chance of survival was to be delivered."

Vicky recalled how a midwife described her placenta as "the weirdest colour she had ever seen".

Scott was placed on a life-support machine at Arrow Park Hospital, Cheshire, and made steady progress until last week when he was put back on a ventilator. Vicky says: "Scott has bladder and heart valve problems which we have since learnt are both associated with anthrax.

"We blame the Army. They never warned us it was dangerous for me to get pregnant."

Military chiefs advised troops it was dangerous to conceive within six months of returning from the 1991 Gulf War. But Army sources say this advice was not given to forces in last year's conflict. Campaigners say Gulf War Syndrome has hit 9,000 veterans of the first conflict, but the MoD officially denies it exists.

Justin now suffers constant stomach pains - and in December Vicky suddenly developed such a bad case of pneumonia that she had to be taken to hospital near their Army married quarters in Gosport.

It was there, on Christmas Eve, that medics noticed problems with Scott's development. She and Justin went to stay with his family in Wallasey on the Wirral for the New Year - and Vicky went into labour.

She has since left the Army, and Justin is on compassionate leave. A doctor at the hospital said: "Scott is still obviously in danger and being constantly monitored."

The Sunday Mirror has highlighted cases of soldiers who have fallen ill since last year's conflict. But Scott is the first baby feared to have fallen victim to the illness.

Children of male veterans are prone to heart problems while those of female veterans tend to suffer urino- genital defects. Scott has both.

Professor Hooper said: "This poor baby seems to have inherited the worst of both worlds.

"The MoD needs to address issues like this but has not done so although it is 13 years since the first Gulf War."

Shaun Rusling of The National Gulf Veterans and Families Association said: "There should be a public inquiry into the vaccines given to troops."

-THE NGVFA's helpline number is 01482 833812.

WHAT IS IT?

GULF War Syndrome is a term used to describe a range of illnesses suffered by veterans of the Iraq conflicts.

Symptoms include fevers, memory loss, mood swings, and chronic fatigue.

It is linked to high rates of cancer, stomach and bowel problems, and trauma.

A string of British babies of Gulf War 1 parents have been born with birth defects.

And a study in America found Gulf War 1 veterans were TWICE as likely as other parents to have children with birth defects.

CAPTION(S):

WORRIED: Vicky Bowen and her father-in-law Terry; WEDDING: Bride Vicky with proud husband Justin; Pictures:MATTPOVER
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:887
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