London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Kensington 1898

Annual report on the health, sanitary condition, &c., &c., of the Parish of St. Mary Abbotts, Kensington for the year, 1898

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within the meaning of the expression, infectious disease, so
far as relates to exposure, and to the prohibition of the use of
public vehicles for the conveyance of infected persons (Section
70); but I see no reason to modify the views adverse to the
notification of measles expressed in these reports,* and
approved, on more than one occasion, by your Vestry. Pro—
bably not a moiety of the cases of measles in any epidemic
come to the knowledge of medical practitioners. Every old
woman thinks herself competent to treat measles, believing in
" saffron tea " as a sovereign remedy. Unless, therefore, the
child is obviously very ill; i.e., unless some of the complications
occur to which the fatal issue in measles is usually due, the
illness is allowed, very generally, to run its course without
medical treatment, properly so-called, and therefore the great
bulk of the cases would probably escape notification. It is true
that the Act requires a "dangerous infectious disease" to
be reported by the head of the family, but notification
otherwise than by the medical man is of the rarest, and it
would be difficult to enforce. Measles becomes epidemic
about every second or third year : it rages for a few weeks ;
its victims are counted by thousands in a place like London ;
and then, for a lengthened time, only sporadic cases occur, the
fatality being trifling. But during epidemic prevalence,
measles is truly a "dangerous infectious disease;" and taking
one year with another, is the cause of a greater mortality
than scarlet fever, or even than diphtheria.† In this Parish,
in 1897, there were only 33 deaths from this cause, whilst in
1896 there had been 173 deaths, of which 160 were registered
* The question of the notification of measles was fully dealt with in my Annual
Report for 1891 (pp. 97-106 inclusive), in which it was shown that no benefit had
accrued therefrom at Edinburgh ; 30,000 cases of measles having been notified
(at a cost of £3,000) in the ten years, 1880-1889.
† The corrected annual average number of deaths in London from measles, in
the ten years 1888-97, was 2,769; from scarlet fever 1,021; from diphtheria 2,175.

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