Virus claims local soldier

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, September 17, 2009

A U.S. Army soldier from Covington County died Wednesday in Landstuhl, Germany, after succumbing to a virus he contracted after being bitten by a tick while serving in Afghanistan.

Sgt. E-5 Robert David Gordon II, 22, of River Falls, was stationed close to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul when the tick bit him, said his aunt, Faye Dean of Andalusia.

“As far as we know, he was bitten by a tick that carried a virus,” said Dean, who has been in contact with Gordon’s family in Germany. “It put him into a coma for five days and they had him on a dialysis machine. He had a heart attack and passed away Wednesday morning (approximately 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Alabama time).”

Dean said doctors determined Gordon contracted the rare Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus, which has been recorded in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. According to the World Health Organization’s Web site, the mortality rate for the CCHF virus is 30 percent.

Dean said Gordon may have been the first U.S. soldier to contract the virus in Afghanistan.

“We have heard that he was going out into the countryside with some goat herdsmen, and he picked it up there,” Dean said. “The virus has a three-week incubation period, and then once it came out of incubation, it started to attack. David started hemorrhaging Sunday, and the doctors gave him two units of packed red-blood cells and platelets.

“Tuesday, they gave him another dose of platelets, and administered a feeding tube. By that point, we were told his survival rate had dropped from 50 percent to 5 percent. I was talking to his sister (Wednesday), and the doctors were going to take him for a CAT scan, but the heart attack hit before they could do that.”

Gordon first enlisted in the U.S. Army more than four years ago in Montgomery. He was assigned to Fort Lewis in Pierce County, Wash., and a member of the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, which was sent to Afghanistan in July.

Dean said Gordon had recently re-enlisted with the U.S. Army for six more years, and his late father had also served in the military.

“He had come home for a visit in August,” she said. “The military was his life. The only thing David wanted to do was go into service. He was very honored to serve his country.”

Gordon was a 2006 graduate of Red Level High School. He is survived by his mother, Carol Diane Gordon; a brother, Charlie Gordon; and a sister, Monica Fallin. He also has several other aunts and uncles in Covington County.

Dean said funeral arrangements have not been finalized, and the immediate family is still in Germany. The body will undergo an autopsy in Atlanta prior to a funeral.