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September 12, 1959

PUBLIC HEALTH ASPECTS OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE AND DISASTER

Author Affiliations

U. S. Army

Assistant Chief, Preventive Medicine Division, Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army, Washington, D. C.

JAMA. 1959;171(2):212-217. doi:10.1001/jama.1959.73010200035014j

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Abstract

During this symposium a great deal has been said about the proposed management of mass casualties after a major disaster. This phase will presumably be transient; in a relatively short period after an attack by nuclear weapons the dead will have been buried and the injured treated to the extent possible.

What then? We will have thousands or millions of survivors struggling to exist under most desperate circumstances—without safe water supplies, with waste-disposal systems gone, with little or no food or shelter. These conditions are most favorable for the explosive outbreak of disease on a scale never before imagined. The ancient scourges, the classic plagues of antiquity, may well rise to affect the population—typhus, typhoid, dysentery, tuberculosis—perhaps even plague or cholera. Truly then we will be faced with perhaps an even greater problem, the survival of the survivors.

Responsibilities  In the final analysis the greatest responsibility falls on the individual

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