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War Surgery and Medicine

Fly Control

Fly Control

It was proved that camps with properly supervised refuse, waste-water and latrine disposal could be kept as free from flies as any area controlled by a civil local authority with full sanitary services. Therefore in the campaign to eliminate the fly, emphasis was placed on these essentials, with fair success in all New Zealand camps. The main problem in connection with flies, and one which threatened the fitness of the Eighth Army, arose with the holding of the Alamein Line in the period July to September 1942. Hygiene supervision of camps and lines of communication generally had been disrupted, and there were crowded together into the area between El Alamein and Amiriya vast numbers of small units as well as hordes of bedouin and native refugees. Literally appalling conditions of fly infestation developed. A concentrated drive had to be made, refugees were cleared back from the camping areas, and a special Fly Control Unit was organised to clear the whole area in and about the Alamein Line of fly-breeding materials such as dead bodies, litter, refuse, etc. Additional fly traps and insecticide were sent forward from Base. The special measures were successful and by the end of September the problem had abated considerably. The enemy experienced the same conditions in his lines, but his neglect of sanitary measures led to a high incidence of dysentery and diarrhoea which materially sapped the manpower and vigour of his forces. New Zealanders occupying ground captured from the enemy suffered an epidemic of infective hepatitis.

One technical point of importance that Middle East experience revealed was the necessity for placing fly traps away from cookhouses, messes, and latrines so that they formed a definite counter- page 722 attraction for flies away from these premises. Later the advent of DDT in 1944 provided a very effective means of fly control.

A new hygiene problem in Italy concerned the disposal of dead animals. In most cases they were buried as soon as possible. In the Rimini area gun posts, sited in farmyards for cover, were bothered by the decaying carcasses of animals either buried in the ruins or shot by the retreating enemy. For dealing with these bodies a truck was equipped with stirrup pumps and a supply of tar oil, which was sprayed lightly on the exposed parts of the carcasses and soon dried hard, getting rid of any smell. The animals were left to be buried by Italian civilians when the area was clear of the enemy. In the advance from the Senio River in 1945 German corpses had also to be disposed of.