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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Venereal Disease

Venereal Disease

During this period venereal disease provided the major incidence of sickness in the Division and there was an appalling increase following the occupation of the Trieste area. There were fourteen licensed brothels in Trieste, normally under good Italian medical supervision, and there were two hundred licensed street-walkers. The city was a seaport and venereal disease was known to be rife. The unsettled political position, arising out of the attitude of the Yugoslavs, disorganised any normal control and prevented any control by our forces. The War Office had decreed that no official army brothels should be allowed.

The cases recorded in the divisional area by 102 Mobile VDTC were as follows:

Syphilis Gonorrhoea Soft Sore Urethritis Penile Sore Balanitis Prostatitis Other Total
Jan 7 21 8 16 5 7 2 2 68
Feb 2 32 4 11 6 2 4 61
Mar 3 22 5 26 6 3 3 3 71
Apr 28 16 29 2 1 4 80
May 131 49 50 6 3 1 4 244
Jun 2 183 61 77 7 6 1 4 341
14 417 143 209 32 22 11 17 865

The figures show clearly the enormous increase in the cases of gonorrhoea, soft sore, and urethritis during May and June, and also the low incidence of syphilis. The total for May exceeded the previous highest monthly total of 217 in July 1944.

In January a marked improvement in the results of treatment of soft sore was brought about by daily examinations and frequent changes in the antiseptics used. Hospitalisation was thereby reduced from an average of twenty-two days in November to eight in page 669 January. During February a new routine of penicillin treatment for gonorrhoea was adopted. Five injections of 20,000 units were given three-hourly, thereby halving the period of hospitalisation. Only one relapse was recorded in thirty-two checked cases. Nonspecific urethritis was found to arise two to three weeks after penicillin treatment for gonorrhoea.

In a survey of the results of penicillin treatment for gonorrhoea it was found that of ninety cases there had been six cases of urethritis, eleven of prostatitis, and two of cystitis. These complications subsided under routine treatment. In March cases of urethritis arising two to three weeks after intercourse with no evidence of gonorrhoea were found to respond well to penicillin.

In June the dosage of sulphathiazole for soft sore was increased to 28 grammes (an initial dose of 4 grammes followed by four-hourly doses of 2 grammes) and this accelerated healing. The treatment of both syphilis and gonorrhoea had been much simplified by the adoption of concentrated penicillin dosage and the immediate results proved satisfactory. The enormous increase in the incidence of these diseases could thus be satisfactorily handled by the Mobile Treatment Centre and comparatively little disability and wastage occurred. This was in marked contrast to the First World War, there having been a truly remarkable advance in the treatment of venereal diseases.