New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
Disinfestation was carried out regularly in the Baalbek area by 4 Field Hygiene Section, which set up its ASH mobile disinfestor in Wavell Barracks. In addition, 4 Field Ambulance had a No. 2 portable disinfestor and a Serbian barrel. Arriving towards the end of March, 1 Mobile Bath Unit began operations early in April.
In the Aleppo area 6 Field Ambulance supervised the disinfestation of refugees and troops, following the system operated by 2/8 Australian Field Ambulance. The refugees crossing the Turkish border into Syria were mainly Greeks, with some Yugoslavs and others. About 10 per cent were women and children. The spread of typhus fever was feared, and Headquarters Ninth Army ruled that the disinfestation and medical examination of refugees was an army and not a civil responsibility.
The refugees arrived in Aleppo by train and were immediately marshalled into lorries and taken direct to the quarantine station, a civil property on loan to the Army. Here they were medically examined, sprayed with AL 63 to kill lice and bugs, bathed, and redressed in their own clothing after it had been steam disinfested. They were then quarantined for two weeks for observation, with particular regard to typhus. At the disinfestation centre 6 Field Ambulance dealt with approximately forty refugees a week. (On one day in June 329 women and children refugees were brought to the centre. The females were supervised by the nursing sisters attached to the field ambulance, who had been inoculated against typhus.)
Cases of typhus fever had occurred in the three months before the arrival of the New Zealanders, and in March a number of cases among civilians were reported from Aleppo, Homs, and Damascus. Colonel Kenrick arranged adequate precautionary measures, including regular shower and bath parades and medical inspections, and troops were advised to keep their hair cut short. In addition, the town of Homs was placed out of bounds.