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August 22, 1980

Medical Department, United States Army—Internal Medicine in Vietnam, vol 1: Skin Diseases in Vietnam, 1965-72

Author Affiliations

Medical College of Georgia Augusta

JAMA. 1980;244(8):839. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310080065035

Two important concepts are documented in this book: (1) Santayana's aphorism "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and (2) significant clinical research can be carried out under military conditions in combat areas.

During World War II and in subsequent military campaigns in tropical and subtropical regions, skin diseases have been a major cause of disability. They were the single greatest cause of outpatient visits to US Army medical facilities during the entire Vietnam War, and on occasions in 1967 and 1968, Vietnam combat commanders reported up to 50% of their men were unavailable for duty because of dermatologic problems. The most frequent diseases were pyodermas from streptococci and staphylococci, fungus infections caused by dermatophytes and Candida, and miliaria rubra and immersion foot. Exotic diseases such as leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, and hirudiniasis were not common.

Streptococcal infections—impetigo, ecthyma, and cellulitis—responded best to penicillin (intramuscular benzathine penicillin G