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JAMA Revisited
December 11, 2018

The Progress of Preventive Medicine

JAMA. 2018;320(22):2383. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.12699

Originally Published December 14, 1918 | JAMA. 1918;71(24):1999- 2000.

The most outstanding feature of the war from the medical standpoint has been the really remarkable results obtained in the prevention of disease. War on an unparalleled scale has been going on for more than four years, waged under conditions in themselves calculated to initiate and spread contagious diseases; yet with the exception of typhus fever in Serbia and the recent epidemics of respiratory disease there have been no extensive epidemics such as have occurred in previous wars. Typhoid fever which, up to the time of the Russo-Japanese War, had been the scourge of armies in the field, has been almost a negligible quantity. In the Boer and Spanish-American wars, typhoid killed and incapacitated thousands. In the Russo-Japanese War the real beginning was made and typhoid checked. In the war just over, it has been entirely robbed of its sting. As with typhoid, so with the other war pestilences. Trench fever after a short time was brought under control through scientific investigation. It has been not only by preventive measures in warding off epidemics but also by close attention to personal hygiene that health in the armies on the western front has been maintained at a high standard. Preventive medicine during the past twenty years has progressed apace, and its value has been greatly emphasized by its strong showing in the war. The experience thus gained should now be put to good use in civilian communities.