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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in 24 weeks, including 45 in one period of four weeks. Having
regard to the low percentage-mortality of measles, this number
of deaths (160) indicates an immense number of cases, probably
5,000 to 6,000, as compared with 1,780 cases of all the
notifiable diseases recorded in that year. To deal with such a
mass of cases—if they did get notified—in so short a period as
half a year, and without action mere notification is useless,
would be a task of great difficulty. And what could we do ?
I have always held to the view that without hospital
modation for the bad cases which occur in the crowded
and unhealthy homes of the poor, where, owing to complications
induced by insanitary conditions, the disease so often proves
fatal, no substantial benefit would accrue from notification.
There is no such accommodation, nor is there likely to be, and,
therefore, 1 think notification would be of little if any avail, as
a means for reducing the fatality of measles. The disease is
exceedingly infectious, and once in a tenemented house, or
a house let in lodgings, and swarming with children, it is almost
impossible to prevent it from spreading to all who are
ceptible to the infection. The School Board do not allow
of the attendance at school of children from infected houses,
and it is possible that if measles was made notifiable, the
head teachers would have some increased facilities for excluding
children from infected houses. But this end might be
equally well attained by the adoption of a course I suggested
to the local Superintendent of the School Board Visitors, some
years ago; viz., that when measles threatens to. become
epidemic, the parents should be informed that school attendance
is not allowed in the case of children living in an
infected house. No action was taken in the matter. I venture
to think that this course should be adopted and proved to be
ineffective, before resorting to notification, which would certainly
be costly, and involve much labour and trouble, probably
to little purpose.