THE WAR

1916 BMJ (Clinical Research Edition)  
TROPICAL DISEASES. rinE great bulk of natives of India disappeared from il'rance shortly before tlhe publication of the King's farewvell messaae to the Indian troops. They were never really as numerous as people thouglit. lt was their dress that made them seemingly ubiquitous. It attracted attention to them whierever they wvent. No doubt was ever felt as to their fighting qualities, btut there was a good deal of suirnise in medical quarters as to how tlleir new environinent would affect them;
more » ... ould affect them; also, wlhen the first cold wet weather after their arrival began, there was amuong the general public a disposition to commiserate as well as admaire themn. Ii, ws sunmmed that they rnust be suffering much more than othier troops. As a matter of fact, a great mnany of the men who aroused these feelings were born and bred in hill districts of Upper India, where the winters are quite as cold and wet as even was the weather of 1914-15 over here. But of suich saving clauses tlle sentimental soul takes no count. He thinks of a man of colour as of one to whom anything butt warmth and sunshine mnust be both strange and unbearable. It must be admitted, too, that for ideas of this order a casual visitor to the Indian hospitals was likely to find some support on a cursory glance at the bed boards, but, according to I.M.S. officers of loncg experience, they were quite niistaken. The troops from certain parts of India suffered very considerably fromlillniesses of a domestic order, such as 1i um11ps, btut the total amcdunt of sickness was lheld to be nlot at all greater than it would hiave beell among the samne troops lhad they been camipaigning in India, and the mortality from disorders commonly associated with cold and wet was quito mooderate. It was also pointed out tllat the cllief wastage from disease was among men of tile camyip follower class and in certaini regiments that lhad been brought up to full strengtlh somewvhat hutrriedly. The more representative figlhting, troops of India lhad resisted tlle climatic conditions of Europe with great success. Somie I.M.S. officers, in fact, went so'far as to proplhesy that whlen percentage returns for all troops alike became available, it would be found that the figures for native regiments were better tllan those for the British troops wvicih had formed part of the Indian contingent. The niative troops, it was said, had, relatively speaking, been better clotlhed and better fed. Be all this as it may, there was one account on which the departure of the native troops diminished anxieties. It lessened the probability of the outbreak of any disease of tropical origin among the troops as a whole. It did not end it, for tllere is always the chance of tropical disease being imported by white troops moved back from the East; as also the possibility of certain epizootic diseases communicable to man being introduced in packing cases and returned stores. Meanwhile it is hligLhly satisfactory to be able to say that so far tlle Britishl forces as a whole have been practically free from any of the diseases comnmonly regarded as tropical in their origin. Colnsidering, that the anoplheles mosquito is to be found in Flanders, and that tlhere were sources from which it might become infected, it would not have been remarkable if there had been a good deal of mnalarial fever. But this was not the case. A definite diagnosis of malarial fever in men who lhad not lived in thle tropics or subtropics was established in quite a small num-iber of cases, and they were all of a benign type. There were also reported from time to time a certain number of cases which were written down as dysentery, but clinically they appear to have been of a very mild type, and according to a pathologist wi-ho investiaated a good many of them, they were almiost all of bacillary origin. Of anythinig in the natuire of an outbrealk of amoebic or true tropical dysentery, the writer heard of only one example, and this was amonigst Frellnc troops. This happy condition of affairs last sunLmmer and autumn is not to be ascribed to good luck, but to the care that the medical authorities took to reduLce the chances of disease importation to a minimum. As soon as it was decided, in the autumin of 1914, to bring over Indian troops, the D.G.M.S. directed the medical officer in clharge of the soutlhern lines of communication to make arrangements for tlle careful examination of all Indian troops on their arrival, and to detain in isolation at various camps all men suspected to be suffering from disease of a comnmunicable kind. The writer saw these arrangements in operation last spring (1915), and was much impressed by their completeness. The cases detained and isolated included a good many examples of recurrent fever and one or two of very early anaesthetic leprosy. SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS. Meetings of medical men for the putrpose of discussing subjects of professional interest have long since ceased to be uncommon occurrences in the war zone in France, but are not always of identical type. Most of them are the outcome of the formation of regular medical societies, but A. tood manv are invitation meetings orgn.ni-ed by the offioers of soAnearticular hospital.
doi:10.1136/bmj.1.2889.701 fatcat:k4unms2cqnfbxp5ckmzkk6asqy