War Surgery and Medicine
The low-lying and boggy plains of Greece have long been notorious as centres of malarial infection. During the First World War British troops stationed in the hinterland of Salonika suffered severely from this disease, in spite of precautionary measures.
The lesson was not forgotten, and the New Zealand Division, as well as the rest of Lustre Force, had made preparations to cope with the problem before arrival in Greece. Up-to-date information on the subject, lectures, and training in malaria control work had been given to medical units. Medical officers were charged with instructing all units in the essentials of malaria control discipline and in the practical application of prophylactic measures. The Divisional Hygiene Section was fully alive to the problem and looked upon it as its main task. Bush mosquito nets, head and hand nets, and repellent were arranged for, and full instruction as to their use given in routine orders and enforced from 10 April. In addition small anti-malaria squads were formed in each unit to work under the medical officer. As far as the New Zealand forces were concerned, 4 Field Hygiene Section at once began anti-malaria measures, carrying out a careful investigation of the battle areas. Contact was at once made with local medical practitioners and information obtained as to the local incidence of the disease. Even spleen surveys were carried out on children in these areas, and the spleen rate was determined to be 40 to 50 per cent in the villages. These surveys disclosed a relatively high incidence of malaria, higher than the figures previously available. The evacuation of children from army areas was recommended as a precaution.
The Hygiene Section proceeded to deal with breeding grounds by drainage and oiling, and to arrange for unit anti-malaria squads to be formed to deal more intensively with the problem. Advice was also given to combatant units as to the relative safety of areas page 521 as far as malaria was concerned. The Force itself contained a malaria officer who had organised 40 Greek foremen, each with a gang of 23 labourers, to deal with the problem from an Army level. Arrangements had been made for equipping three of these for the New Zealand Division.
(Fortunately, as far as this campaign was concerned, only three cases of malaria were reported, as seasonal infection did not occur until May at the earliest, with the main incidence in July, August, and September. Training in malaria control was, however, valuable for the future.)