Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Information About Camp Aliceville Diphtheria Epidemic

The photo at left shows "the last four positives" who were treated for diphtheria at Camp Aliceville in the fall of 1943. Although I have not identified all four German POWs in the photo, the man on the far right is Walter Felholter, who is quoted frequently in Guests Behind the Barbed Wire.

I have just finished reading an article by Captain Stephen Fleck, Captain John W. Kellam, and Major Arthur J. Klippen who were the American medical officers at Camp Aliceville when the diphtheria outbreak occurred. The article, "Diphtheria Among German Prisoners of War" was published in The Bulletin of the U. S. Army Medical Department in March 1944 (pp. 80 to 89).

Apparently, the diphtheria was brought to Camp Aliceville by the first wave of German POWs who were captured in North Africa in the spring of 1943 and arrived in Aliceville that summer. In all, 51 diphtheria patients were admitted to the camp hospital during September and October. Later prisoners arriving from North Africa had been immunized for the disease, and no new cases were reported after October. The medical officers concluded that the POWs brought the diphtheria with them because camp inspections indicated sanitary conditions and because, although both POWs and guards obtained their food and water from the same sources, no American personnel became ill.

The POWs received excellent care, including antitoxin and other treatments. The article notes the assistance of the hospital registrar, Lieutenant George L. Runyon, and the laboratory staff, which included Norma Klippen, Helen Klippen, Laura Downer, and Sergeant C. W. Terry.
In the next blog entry, I will share Walter Felholter's amusing story about the period of time that he was quarantined in Compound B while being tested for diphtheria.

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