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War Surgery and Medicine

Prevention of Hepatitis

Prevention of Hepatitis

Studies of the virus show that it is extremely resistant. It has comparable qualities to the virus of serum jaundice (Havens, 1945), which will traverse bacteriological filters of the Seitz and Berkefeld types, it withstands equal volumes of phenol and ether of a 5 per cent concentration for many months, and resists heating at 50 degrees C. for an hour or freezing or drying for several weeks (Memorandum, 1943).

As little as 0.1 c.c. of serum or the prick of an infected needle has been known to convey the infection (Bradley, Loutit and Maunsell, 1944; Salamen, King, Williams and Nicol, 1944).

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The hygiene of the 2 NZEF units was excellent, judged by the dysentery and jaundice rate, and if one considered the base camps. Here one can say that hepatitis was controlled. However, in the desert camp areas, in spite of the best that could be done under the conditions, the control failed.

The efforts of sanitation, however, were magnificent under trying conditions (Richmond and Gear, 1945). They could conceivably be improved by attention to all aspects of sanitation and cleanliness, but it is just as well to remember that the highest incidence in the Eighth Army in the desert was 8 per 1000, and it would require many more men than that to advance sanitation closer to perfection than was obtained.

McKinlay and Truelove (1947), in carrying out investigations among New Zealand troops in Italy, made important contributions to the knowledge of this disease. They found that among the men who had experienced previous epidemics the initial incidence of infection was highest and gradually decreased, whereas among men recently arrived in the Middle East and Italy the initial incidence began low and rapidly increased.

They also noted the low incidence among Maoris, and commented on the fact, also, that a group which had not previously passed through an epidemic was three times more susceptible than old hands.