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"Precautions Against Scrub Typhus" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following precautions against scrub typhus were originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 47, June 1, 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


a. General

"Scrub typhus" is an important typhus-like fever encountered in the Southwest Pacific area and in the Chinese-Burma-India Theater. Formerly regarded as a curiosity in the United States, it has now assumed military importance because of its deadliness and prevalence in areas where our forces are now engaged. This disease is transmitted by the bite of the larval of mites, known popularly as chiggers, red bugs, or harvest mites. These mites are only about 0.01 inch in length. While the disease-carrying larval form feeds on rats and bandicoots (a small marsupial), the adult form feeds on plants and is not, like the larval mite, a human parasite. The mite infests the high "kunai grass" of New Guinea fig. 1 and adjacent islands. The infection may be passed through several generations of mites, thus obviating the need of an animal reservoir over short periods of time.

[Figure 1: Precautions Against Scrub Typhus]

b. Precautions

Based on present knowledge, the following measures are effective in controlling the incidence of the disease:

(1) Locations which are to be used as new camp sites should be prepared as fully as possible before the arrival of a new unit and as far as possible, employing native labor. All kunai grass should be cut level with the ground, and after drying for several days (if the weather permits) collected and burned or hauled away. It is highly desirable to burn over the area with a power oil sprayer (figure 2).

[Figure 2: Precautions Against Scrub Typhus]

(2) Sleeping on the ground should be avoided, and cots provided wherever possible. Floors for tents, preferably raised two or three feet off the ground, are desirable.

(3) Individual control methods apply particularly to personnel in combat areas or to those working in areas where the disease is known to exist. At the earliest possible time after exposure, men should be instructed to take a bath with thorough soaping and scrubbing of the skin with a rough cloth. Antimite repellents (dimethyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate) should be employed according to instructions given in W.D. Technical Bulletin, TB MED 31, dated 11 April 1944.


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