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Preventive Medicine for the Soldier

GENERAL: There is no reason to fear the Somalian environment, and it should not adversely affect your morale if you are prepared for it, provided you take certain precautions to protect yourself. Remember that there is nothing unique about living in the arid coastal climate of Africa; native tribesman have lived in this region for thousands of years.


DISCUSSION: Communicable diseases are illnesses that can be transmitted from one person to person or from animal to person. These diseases are caused by: direct contact with infected person(s), exposure to bodily discharges, bites of animals, insects and rodents, air, food, water and milk products. Communicable diseases can be broken down into five different categories. They are: respiratory diseases (common cold and pneumonia), intestinal diseases (dysentery, cholera, typhoid, paratyphoid fevers), insect-borne diseases (malaria, typhus, yellow fever, dengue), sexually transmitted diseases (syphilis, gonorrhia, chancroid, AIDS), and miscellaneous diseases (tetanus, rabies, dermatophytosis, tuberculosis). Above all, PERSONAL HYGIENE is the most important factor in the prevention of communicable diseases.


  • Control the source of the disease through:
    Isolation of the sick person (quarantine)

  • Control means of transmission:
    Properly ventilate living quarters
    Purify water
    Provide mess sanitation
    Properly dispose of body waste
    Control disease-carrying insects
    Practice good personal hygiene


DISCUSSION: Respiratory infections account for the highest incidence of disease in the Army. While troops are affected, the highest rates of infection occur in personnel unfamiliar with the surrounding conditions.

LESSON(S): The difficulty in the prevention and control of respiratory diseases lies in the fact that most individuals are susceptible to them. Another problem is that the person transmits the disease before he realizes that he is infectious. The most important control measures to prevent respiratory diseases are:

  • Separate all known cases from healthy persons.
  • Provide quarantine and surveillance of contacts
  • Immunize
  • Avoid overcrowding (minimum 55 square feet of floor space in sleeping areas)
  • Practice good personal hygiene


DISCUSSION: Personal hygiene is the practice of health rules by the individual to safeguard his own health and the health of others. Carelessness of one member of a unit in regard to personal hygiene may lead to disease that may incapacitate the entire unit. Leaders must check soldiers daily to ensure that they are performing their personal hygiene. Personal hygiene includes, but is not limited to: washing face and hands, shaving, changing uniform (or at least socks and underwear), brushing teeth, and combing hair.


  • Individual:
    Understand and continually apply personal measures
    Seek needed medical care
    Do not resort to self-treatment

  • Medical:
    Conduct instruction in personal hygiene
    Conduct inspections of facilities and troops
    Provide medical treatment

  • Commanders:
    Provide and maintain facilities
    Ensure the practice of personal hygiene through inspections
    Deploy with adequate buckets and soap so soldiers can wash personal clothing until laundry facilities are established
    Deploy with Australian showers


DISCUSSION: Safe potable water is essential to the Army. Water that is not properly treated can transmit such diseases as typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, bacillary dysentery, cholera, poliomyelitis, and common diarrhea. In some areas, water may also be the means of transmitting infectious hepatitis, schistosomiasis, and amoebic dysentery. Lessons from Operation DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM showed that units should use a planning factor of at least 7 gallons of water per soldier per 24-hour period.

LESSON(S): Treat the individual water supply with one iodine tablet per a quart-size canteen if the water is clear, two tablets if the water is cloudy. Let stand 5 minutes with the cap loosened, and shake to permit leakage to rinse the thread around the neck. Tighten cap and let stand for 20 minutes. Calcium hypochlorite may be used. Add one ampule in one-half canteen cup of water, let it dissolve, then pour one canteen cap of the solution in the canteen, shake it and let stand for 30 minutes.

Water Containers:

The best containers for small quantities of water (5 gallons) is plastic water cans. Water in plastic cans will be good up to 72 hours, compared to metal which will only be good for 24 hours. However, you should change the water in your canteen at least every 24 hours. Water in trailers, if kept in the shade, will last up to 5 days. If the temperature outside exceeds 100 degrees F, the temperature of your water must be monitored, and when it exceeds 92 degrees F, it should be changed, as bacteria will multiply. If not changed, you will end up with a case of diarrhea. Placing ice in the containers will keep the water cool. If you do put ice in the water trailers, it must be removed before the trailer is moved as the floating ice may destroy the protective lining of the trailer.


DISCUSSION: Malaria is a serious disease which is spread through the bite of the female anopheles mosquito.

LESSON(S): To protect soldiers, units should:

  • Destroy mosquitoes and control breeding areas by draining standing water.
  • Screen troop areas.
  • Locate camps away from infested areas.
  • Use sprays and aerosol dispensers, NSN 6840-00-253-3892 and NSN 6840-00-823-7849.
  • Ensure soldiers use netting at night.
  • Ensure soldiers wear protective clothing.
  • Ensure soldiers use chemical repellents.
  • Ensure soldiers take anti-malaria medication.


DISCUSSION: The most frequently encountered types of heat injury are heat exhaustion and heat cramps. Less common, but of greater significance, is heat stroke. Causes of most heat injuries are the loss of salt and water from the body, failure of the sweat mechanism with resulting increase of body temperature (heat stoke).

Heat cramps are primarily caused by excessive loss of salt from the body. The symptom is extremely painful contraction of the voluntary muscles, especially in the abdomen.

Heat exhaustion is caused by excessive loss of water and salt from the body. The symptoms include profuse perspiration, pallor of the skin, low blood pressure and other manifestations of peripheral circulatory collapse. Soldiers may also complain of headache, mental confusion, drowsiness, extreme weakness, vomiting, and visual disturbances.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Symptoms are extreme high body temperature, total absence of perspiration or sweating and skin which is red and hot to the touch. The individual is usually in a profound coma. Heat stroke is a breakdown in the body's heat-regulating mechanism. Individuals who have not been acclimatized are especially prone to heat stroke.

LESSON(S): Prevention of heat injury involves the application of measures for increasing the resistance of exposed persons and reducing the exposure as much as practicable. Following are ways to prevent heat injuries:

  • Encourage soldiers to drink water; thirst is not a good indicator of a heat injury.
  • Encourage proper salt intake -do not use salt tablets.
  • Gradually acclimatize soldiers to hot climates.
  • Ensure personnel maintain their best physical condition.
  • Tailor work schedules to fit the climate.
  • Protect soldiers from the environment by ensuring they wear loose clothing to permit air circulation.
  • Take frequent rest breaks - in the shade if possible.
  • Educate personnel to recognize early signs, take appropriate action, and apply effective first aid.


DISCUSSION: The role of field sanitation (AR 40-5, FM 21-10) is to aid the unit in protecting the health of troops. Field sanitation is concerned with the basic responsibilities of:

Personal hygiene and protective measures
Water supplies
Mess sanitation
Waste disposal
Insect and rodent control
Troop education

LESSON(S): Methods for field sanitation include the following:

  • Garbage or Rubbish Disposal:

  • Liquid Waste Disposal:
    Soakage Pits
    Soakage trenches
    Evaporation Beds

  • Body Waste Disposal:
    Cat-Hole latrine for marches
    Straddle trench for 1- to 3-day bivouac sites
    Deep pit latrine for temporary camps
    Burn-out latrines
    Soakage pits for urinals


Latrines must be located at least 100 meters from unit messes and at least 100 meters from any water source. Garbage must be buried at least 100 feet from any water source.

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