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War Surgery and Medicine

Scabies and Pediculosis

Scabies and Pediculosis

Throughout the time 2 NZEF was in the Middle East and Italy there were cases of scabies and pediculosis (as there was in any other force, the Army in New Zealand included), but the incidence was not high until in the latter stages in Italy. In the winter of 1944 the incidence in the Division increased, but the highest figures were reached in the months of May to October 1945. This was in spite of the showering and disinfestation facilities available. It must be ascribed to free mingling with the local population and lack of discipline. When the remnants of the Division were in the Florence area in October 1945 these infestations reached their peak incidence of 131 cases of scabies and 165 of lice for the month. At this stage units were widely dispersed and had independent showering arrangements. Patients were admitted to hospital who had not bathed for some time. It was necessary for HQ 2 NZEF to issue a directive to all unit commanders to ensure better discipline in the matter of personal hygiene. The resulting action led to a prompt reduction in the incidence of both scabies and pediculosis, there being only sporadic cases more in keeping with the good record of 2 NZEF as regards personal hygiene, and relative freedom from infestation and skin troubles attributable to a lack of personal cleanliness. In this connection considerable assistance was rendered through the facilities acquired and developed by 4 Field Hygiene Company in regard to showering and disinfestation. Equipment for such purposes should be freely available in any military force.

It was common in military practice to find cases of dermatitis mistaken for scabies and made worse by anti-scabietic therapy. This was a type of disseminated papular dermatitis commonly seen in hot weather, particularly related to sweating. The chief point in diagnosis is that the lesions do not involve the areas of predilection to scabies.