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War Surgery and Medicine

Increase in Incidence

Increase in Incidence

By May the VD figures for 2 NZEF (217 fresh cases for the month) had surpassed the previous peak of June and July 1941 following the return of troops from Greece and Crete. Figures tended to be somewhat higher than those in Egypt because ‘nonspecific urethritis’ had usually been classed as ‘non-venereal’ in Egypt, whereas in Italy it was more usual to class it as a venereal disease.

But, apart from that, the figures gave rise for concern. In April there was an increase in leave granted following the relief of 2 NZ Division in the line at Cassino. The OC 102 Mobile VDTC made the following comment in May: ‘Two reasons for the high incidence suggest themselves. 1. The attitude to this disease is not healthy. Officers’ attitude to the trouble and their control of their men is an important factor. 2. Healthy recreation and suitable rest spots have not been afforded the men. Those units who sent their men to Naples for the day have suffered most heavily. A unit such as 19 Arm. Regt. which arranged a healthy leave camp has had very little trouble.'

The GOC 2 NZEF, acting on medical advice, placed Naples out of bounds to New Zealand troops other than those on duty.

In June the incidence of VD continued to be high. The Division had advanced to the area of Sora and then rested at Arce following the fall of Rome. AMGOT reported sixty prostitutes in the Sora area; only seven of these were apprehended by the carabinieri and six had venereal disease. Leave to Rome was the next feature in divisional life. In Rome the position was far from satisfactory as many civilians were infected, but the city was not such a ‘plague spot’ as Naples. Numerous cases, however, developed while 2 NZ Division was reorganising prior to going into action south of Florence. The wastage from the Division was relatively low as 102 Mobile VDTC held up to thirty inpatients and had others reporting daily for treatment. In August the number of fresh cases fell to 92, less than half the average of the previous three months, although the number of cases of syphilis was on the increase. The 102nd Mobile VDTC was kept very busy with final tests of page 606 cure for cases of infection contracted three to four months previously in the peak period. Outpatient treatments for the month numbered 531, exclusive of British troops.

At the end of August 2 NZ Division moved to the Adriatic coast and was committed to the line in subsequent weeks. For several months the incidence of VD remained reasonably satisfactory, the majority of fresh cases coming from troops who had recently returned from leave, mostly in Rome. Including outpatients, there were over 800 troops in 2 NZEF under treatment for VD in October 1944, and considerable work was involved in arranging and completing final tests of cure. Most of the cases of gonorrhoea proved satisfactory when they reported for tests of cure, and in only a few instances had the final tests to be postponed.

In the months up to April 1945 the number of fresh cases of VD continued to rise slowly and reached 119 that month. At this stage the remaining outpatients in the Division on arsenical courses for syphilis completed their injections, so that all cases had then had their full treatment, with any new cases undergoing the seven and a half day penicillin treatment.