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War Surgery and Medicine

Rise of VD in Italy

Rise of VD in Italy

In Italy the ever-present opportunity of acquiring infection resulted in a large increase in the numbers of cases. These were dealt with effectively by the newly formed NZ Mobile Treatment Centre, which had the benefit of resilience and mobility and close co-ordination with Base.

In December 1943 the fresh VD cases in 2 NZ Division had increased in spite of the precautions. With troops scattered through a thickly-populated area, complete control of a new area was usually delayed a few days. Infected prostitutes were removed from the Division's area. ADMS 2 NZ Division made the following comment: ‘102 NZ Mob. VDTC has proved its worth in that 82 per cent of cases have been returned to their units.’

This was achieved in spite of an unduly large number of sulphonamide-resistant cases, a number of whom had to be evacuated, and it was found necessary to open a 30–bed VD ward at 3 NZ General Hospital at Bari to accommodate them.

The rise in VD figures for 2 NZEF was in common with other services in Italy, as shown in an Allied Force HQ circular issued early in the campaign: ‘Since the occupation of Sicily and Italy the venereal rate has rocketted to more than 20 times the rate in UK…. In Italy the rate of sickness from VD is greater than the battle casualty rate. Italian women are causing as much damage to the army as the German men…. In Italy, owing to the economic condition (now being improved), women offer themselves for a few cigarettes, and prostitutes abound. Nearly all these women are suffering from a virulent form of infection.’

In April 1944, 102 Mobile VDTC found itself unable to cure with sulphathiazole the gonorrhoea contracted at Naples and page 605 Pompeii. British, American, and Canadian units had recourse to penicillin for the treatment of such cases. A number of these patients had banked up at 3 General Hospital, and their treatment fell to the lot of 101 VDTC, when it went across to Italy in April 1944 with 1 General Hospital (after leaving a detachment at 5 General Hospital, Helwan) and was attached to 3 General Hospital at Bari on arrival.