Naval Hygiene in the Age of Epidemics

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, BUMED *** The Navy’s South Atlantic Squadron arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1894 just as a deadly disease epidemic hit the city.   To protect the crews, the shipboard surgeons—immersed in the principles of naval hygiene—issued a series of strict sanitary guidelines.  For months the Squadron remained in port and yet almost entirely free of …

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The Navy’s Fight against Scurvy

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Scurvy patient, ca 1842. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine Few diseases have been more synonymous with sailors than scurvy.   From the dawn of time scurvy has been described as the “Black Death of the sea,” and was once even as deadly as smallpox. Yet years after the British …

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