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J R Soc Med. 1996 October; 89(10): 552–556.
PMCID: PMC1295954

A pseudo-outbreak of skin disease in British troops.


When a newspaper report claimed that a serious outbreak of skin disease had occurred in British Army troops stationed at the Bocac Dam, in western Bosnia, all troops at the Bocac Dam location (n = 96), followed by a matched control group of troops (n = 91) at a nearby location, were examined by two investigators. 14% of the study population and 21% of the control group were found to have skin disorders. Most were complaints that are commonly encountered in general medical practice. There was a striking absence of skin infestations. The historical consultation rate for skin disorders had not increased. It was concluded that an outbreak of skin disease had not occurred in British troops guarding the dam. This epidemiological study shows that, even under conditions of modern field hygiene, up to one in five soldiers will have skin disease. Skin infestations, however, have become progressively less common during military campaigns this century, probably because of better personal hygiene, good preventive medicine practices and better access to effective health care.

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Selected References

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