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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Insect Pests

page 26

Insect Pests

Flies were one of the chief nuisances of life in Maadi. Tougher cousins of the domestic New Zealand breed, the Egyptian flies were bigger, sandy in colour, and born fighters. Many a soldier on parade, driven almost desperate by their bites, preferred to draw the wrath of the sergeant-major by brushing them off rather than suffer their constant attacks. Both from a medical and a soldier's point of view, flies were the troops' worst enemy. Local methods of cultivation and irrigation, together with the flies, made it necessary for uncooked fruit or vegetables to be washed in disinfectant before being eaten. The consequences of neglect were liable to be ‘Gippo tummy’ or even dysentery. Throughout the first few months in Egypt, 4 Field Hygiene Section worked steadily to improve sanitation and safeguard health.

The spring flooding of the Nile added humidity to the desert heat and brought with it the first of the mosquitoes. Nets issued to the men were rigged over their beds from a ring hung in the tent roof, and anti-mosquito cream was also issued as a protection against bites. Another pest introduced into the camp at this time was the bed-bug, brought in by troops returning from duty at the Kasr-el-Nil Barracks in Cairo, by Egyptian labourers, or else in furniture from Abbassia. Measures taken against these bugs included steam disinfestation, the sprinkling of tents with pyrethrum powder, and dipping bedboards in kerosene. The bites from these bugs and their descendants were to be a torment for many thousands in Maadi in the years to come.