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War Surgery and Medicine

Incidence of Disease

Incidence of Disease

The conscientious application (for the most part) of all these measures to promote the health of 2 NZEF resulted in the incidence page 727 of disease in our Force in the Middle East comparing more than favourably with other formations in the same area, in spite of a lack of immunity to many diseases when the troops left New Zealand. This lack of immunity was most strikingly shown in relation to infective hepatitis, a virus disease to which New Zealanders were particularly susceptible, and which was responsible for the only two large epidemics, each of which affected over 2000 men. New Zealand troops were also more prone to dysentery than some other forces, and there were some of these cases all the year round, with a rise in incidence during the summer months.

At the temporary Mena camp in 1943 there was a short epidemic of typhoid fever affecting fewer than 200 men of the 10th Reinforcements. Its cause was traced to a carrier working in the camp kitchen, although there was also some question of the potency of the protective inoculations given in New Zealand. There were only sporadic cases of typhus, cerebro-spinal meningitis, and poliomyelitis. In proportion to other forces the number of malaria cases was commendably low. The number of deaths from these epidemic diseases was fewer than ten for each condition.

Venereal disease varied in incidence but was kept within reasonable proportions until the post-armistice phase in Italy, when the troops apparently were not prepared to exert the necessary measure of self-control, and the check on sources of infection could not be as thorough or as effective. (In connection with venereal disease, the Mobile VD Treatment Centre achieved a valuable saving of manpower by keeping men in the divisional area for treatment. In 1945 the large numbers of patients were able to be treated and cured in a few days or treated only as outpatients, whereas formerly they would have had to go to hospital.)

Apart from battle casualties, accidental injuries were a major cause of disablement. Many of the cases were probably unavoidable as transport casualties in a force that moved on wheels, though there were many, such as petrol burns, which could have been avoided by the observance of adequate precautions. Research in accident prevention in the Army would be well worth while.