Diseases in the 1940s

Epidemic and endemic diseases were carefully monitored by the U.S. Army Military Government after World War II. Among the communicable diseases reported in 1946 and 1947 were typhus, smallpox, relapsing fever, cholera, meningitis, encephalitis, malaria, diphtheria, typhoid, and bacillary dysentery. The Institute for the Prevention of Infectious Diseases stocked and dispensed diagnostic tests and vaccines for many of these as well as other diseases. Although there were no cases of human plague reported in South Korea, antiplague measures, including port quarantine stations and rat control, were instituted when a case was reported in North Korea near the Manchurian border (Summation 1946, 1947).

By the end of 1947, the communicable disease picture was relatively stable. The incidences of many diseases, especially typhus, typhoid, and smallpox, were substantially decreased. In 1946, 117 cases of typhus had been reported, but only 4 were reported in 1947. Typhoid fever cases were reduced from 239 to 24 cases, and smallpox cases decreased from 41 to 2. When cholera appeared immediately after World War II, the American occupation forces were involved in managing the outbreak. Nevertheless, in the 1946 cholera epidemic there were 15,748 cases with 10,191 deaths. By 1947, however, there were only 14 cholera cases, with 10 deaths (Summation 1947).

The general decrease in communicable diseases was attributed to (1) disease control programs; (2) educational prevention programs; (3) increased availability of preventive inoculations and therapeutic drugs; and (4) establishment of clinics and health centers.

By 1948, diphtheria, typhus, and typhoid were about the only major communicable diseases still reported in South Korea. Typhus was generally the louse-borne form, but relapsing fever was often mis taken for typhus. A few sporadic cases of relapsing fever, bacillary dysentery, and smallpox were reported and gonorrhea and syphilis were not uncommon among prostitutes in Seoul and other cities (,Summation 1948). However, leprosy remained a public health problem. There were only six leper clinics in South Korea, and the authorities conceded that it would be impossible to institutionalize all of the approximately 31,000 lepers in the country (Summation 1948).

A study of mortality in children revealed that from April to December 1946, 36 percent of all deaths were of children under 5 years of age. Measles, complicated by bronchopneumonia, accounted for 18 percent of the child deaths; pneumonia for 14 percent; and meningitis for 8 percent. Influenza and dysenteries followed meningitis in order of importance. An epidemic of smallpox was the cause of another 4 percent of the deaths. Therefore, 40 percent of the deaths in children under 5 years could have been prevented by use of penicillin, sulfonamides, and vaccination (Summation 1948).

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  • brhane
    What diseases were in the 1940s?
    2 months ago

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