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April 7, 1969

Public Health and the Vietnam Returnee

Author Affiliations

Brooklyn, NY

JAMA. 1969;208(1):154. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160010150034

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To the Editor:—  In comment on the article by COL J. Greenberg "Public Health Problems Relating to t'he Vietnam Returnee" (207:697, 1969), I suspect that syphilis will prove a significant problem. While in naval service, I treated a number of young men evacuated from Vietnam service, who had low-titer positive tests for syphilis. Their histories were quite similar in that they had not had syphilis before and now had positive fluorescent treponomal antibody absorption tests (FTA-ABS). They had neither signs nor symptoms of disease. All gave a history of urethritis treated with a short course of tetracycline. In short, they had gone directly into early-latent syphilis.Although the armed services do not punish men for contracting venereal disease nowadays, many servicemen at home and abroad tend to avoid military physicians when they suspect such diagnoses. The control of venereal disease requires eternal vigilance, a very high degree of suspicion,