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War Surgery and Medicine

Malaria in 2 NZEF

Malaria in 2 NZEF

At no stage in the history of 2 NZEF in the Middle East and Italy did the number of malaria cases give cause for alarm or page 519 affect in any major degree the efficiency of the Force. The average monthly incidence was approximately 2 per 1000 during the malaria seasons over the whole force, with base and field units both included. When the Division was in highly malarious areas such as Syria and parts of Italy the incidence differed little from that of the troops in Egypt, which was classed as only mildly malarious. The creditably low figures for the malarious areas must be ascribed to good anti-malaria work within the Division itself, and within the army of which it was part, usually the Eighth Army. The large measure of success in Italy was due to the discovery of DDT and the use of it and other insecticides in power sprayers by malaria control companies, supported by larval control on the ground and eventually from the air. Added to this was education of the troops, the adoption of personal precautions, and the regular taking of the newly-developed mepacrine tablets (the synthesised substitute for quinine) during the malarial seasons.

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When the Division arrived in Egypt in 1940 anti-malaria measures were possible only on a limited scale. Following the occurrence of twelve cases of malaria in August 1940, the use of mosquito nets was enforced and personal precautions in the way of the turning down of sleeves and the wearing of long trousers between sunset and sunrise were ordered in malarious areas such as Moascar and Helwan. The 4th Field Hygiene Section undertook what control measures were possible in the spraying of breeding places in the Maadi Camp environs, notably the water-holes at the Maadi golf course, where the unit had surprised the local authorities by finding Anopheles pharoensis, the chief carrier of malaria in Egypt. The annual flooding of the Nile in August and September and the methods of irrigation on its banks produced breeding places for mosquitoes, some of which were anopheline, and the camp plateaux at Maadi, and at Helwan in 1941, were within a few miles of the irrigation areas. In the circumstances complete malaria control by military units alone was impossible, although the Field Hygiene Section extended its activities as far as practicable.

In the first summer the total number of cases was only 73 for the portion of the force then in Egypt, the highest incidence being in September, when it was 2.3 per 1000. In the spring of 1941, however, the Division moved to Greece, a country which was highly malarious. Colonel N. Hamilton Fairley, AAMC, acting Consultant in Tropical Diseases, MEF, had made a report in January 1941 on the danger of malaria in South-east Europe and Asia Minor, stating that during the months June to September inclusive the employment of unseasoned troops in hyperendemic page 520 areas could lead to appalling wastage of manpower similar to that which occurred in Macedonia in the First World War.

Prior to the move to Greece the ADMS 2 NZ Division, in February 1941, endeavoured to educate the whole of the Division to realise the importance of anti-malaria precautions. With this end in view a medical administrative instruction dealing with the subject was issued to all RMOs and Field Ambulances. Notes on malaria were drawn up to form the basis of a lecture for combatant officers. Some medical officers attended courses of instruction at No. 1 Malaria Field Laboratory, and malaria diagnostic panniers were obtained and issued to field ambulances.