American soldiers can’t help their country win the war if they are too sick to fight. With that in mind, the U.S. Army has begun immunizing all of its personnel against yellow fever. The recently developed vaccine will prepare any soldier for deployment to a tropical environment.
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson ordered the mass vaccination because most of the battles for control in the Pacific are being fought in the tropics. The vaccine will provide further safety to supplement the preventative measures already taken in disease-ridden spots.
The yellow fever vaccine is a new medical development built on decades-old knowledge. It will be administered along with routine injections to prevent typhoid, paratyphoid, smallpox and tetanus. Such diseases have plagued men in previous wars.
Disease can also take a heavy toll on civilians in war zones. During the Great War, much of Europe was decimated by tuberculosis, which was later attributed to malnutrition, according to New York Tuberculosis and Health Association assistant director Godias J. Drolet.
Although this war is not being fought on American soil, the possibility of a tuberculosis outbreak still exists. A report by Drolet described a rise in tuberculosis during the first seven weeks of 1942 in cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, with infection rates increasing by as much as 23 percent.
“Increased defense activities, longer hours of work and associated war stresses should be paralleled by a corresponding increase of anti-tuberculosis activities, if an unnecessary toll of lives is not to be paid,” Drolet said. He suggested that workers be examined periodically to stunt the disease’s spread and to treat those affected while their condition is curable.
Dr. Esmond R. Long, director of the Henry Phipps Institute in Philadelphia, echoed Drolet’s fears; he too cited the danger of long working hours and poor nutrition. The British Isles have already seen an increase in tuberculosis deaths, according to Long.
It is evident that national defense means protecting the health of a country’s soldiers and citizens, as well as preparing the troops militarily.
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