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MALCOLM W. BROWNE:
Saigon AP Bureau Handbook


Page 8 of 22 Back  Main  Next


VI. HEALTH

Viet Nam has plague, malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid, dysentery, all kinds of parasites, and various other goodies. Leprosy runs as high as [illegible] of the population in some areas.

Water (including tap water in hotels) should be considered unsafe to drink unless it has been sterilized. In the field, use halizone purification tablets, as directed, in canteens. For malaria, one tablet a week is recommended of Chloroquin. These tablets are available at the American Dispensary, Saigon, and from military authorities.

For dysentery, a variety of French remedies is available on the local market, some of which work. [illegible] can be obtained from the American Dispensary. [illegible], if not used too frequently, is effective.

One of the doctors at the American Dispensary, Bill Shadel, knows a lot about tropical medicine, and is especially friendly with correspondents (partly because his old man is an ABC commentator). He'll treat anything, and is known as a specialist for ailments that result from too much night life.

Salads and fruit in Viet Nam are delicious. In restaurants they generally have been rinsed in [illegible], and are reasonably safe to eat.

If you should get shot or otherwise injured, you will get the same benefits of helicopter evacuation as the troops. Treatment and emergency surgery are available at the military field hospitals. If you are American and your wound is serious, you may be evacuated to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. The civilian Adventist Hospital in Saigon is fairly good and run by Americans. L'Hospital Grail is the main French hospital, and is highly regarded.

In the field, it is advisable to take a GI aid pack (pressure dressing); some aspirin tablets; some dysentery tablets; mosquito repellent; if possible, a mosquito net; a jack knife and sun glasses. The sun gets hot, and hats and salt tablets are a good idea.

Halizone water purification tablets, powdered and mixed with a little water, have worked well for this writer as emergency disinfectants, and can be used for small wounds. If wounded either on a steel or bamboo foot spike trap, get a tetanus booster shot as soon as possible. The Viet Cong often soaks these spikes in buffalo urine to make them tetanus transmitters.

Battle casualties often die from loss of blood. Belts, ropes and field straps make good tourniquets, and the expert recommend thinking of tourniquets first if you are bleeding heavily.

Whenever flying in a helicopter, try to borrow a flak jacket from the crew -- two, if possible. The second one is to sit on. You won't be considered a chicken. All crew members must wear them.

On operations, sometimes the most palatable fluid available is coconut milk. This can cause diarrhea in some persons, but it's worth the risk if you're thirsty enough. Soldiers usually carry the machetes needed to knock the tops off coconuts to get the milk out.

The cold rice, broiled pork, fermented fish sauce, duck eggs and other foods Vietnamese troops eat in the field may not appeal to the average Westerner, but they are nutritious and reasonably safe. If you're hungry and have the chance to eat (especially if your unit is stuck somewhere) it's better to eat all you can get down.

Watch out for squirrels and rats in Viet Nam. Many of them carry rabies and will attack. If you are bitten by one, start getting the treatment immediately. The shots are painful (direct injection into the stomach) but worth it.


Courtesy Malcolm W. Browne.

Photo: Horst Faas, Mal Browne and Peter Arnett in the Saigon AP office. Photo credit: Peter Arnett collection Reporter's Notebook
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