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

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Hornsey 1954

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Hornsey, Borough of]

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There is a constant drive to improve the standard of food premises
and the conditions in which food is prepared This is essential and must
go on but it is quite useless to provide stainless steel and white-tiled
equipment, refrigerators and plastic showcases if all members of the
staff of the shop do not observe the basic principles of personal hygiene
Many lapses of the staff will be unknown to customers but if every case
of a shopkeeper licking his finger to pick up a piece of grease proof
paper or blowing open a paper bag led to a protest from the customer
and refusal to buy the goods, the management of shops would soon
become aware that cleanliness is good business
During the year a case of a rare infectious disease, canicola fever,
occurred in Hornsey It is a disease of dogs caused by the organism
Leptospira Canicola which sets up an inflammation of the kidneys
The organism is excreted in the urine of the dog and may enter the skin
of a person usually but not necessarily, through a cut or abrasion It
then travels in the blood to the nervous system and sets up a meningitis
Some fifteen to twenty human cases are recognised annually in Great
Britain The mortality from the disease is very low, only two deaths
having been reported
On 23rd July, a man aged 33 years was admitted to hospital provisionally
diagnosed as suffering from non-paralytic poliomyelitis He
made an uneventful recovery and there were no after-effects; he was
discharged on 12th August The disease did not pursue its usual clinical
course and investigations were carried out for certain other diseases
which cause similar symptoms Specimens of blood were sent from the
hospital to the Virus Reference Laboratory, Colindale, for investigation
and evidence of the organism Leptospira Canicola was found
The patient reported that his dog had been suffering from intermittent
diarrhoea since one week before his own illness began The case was
investigated by the Health Department and as the owner intended having
the dog destroyed, arrangements were made with the Royal Veterinary
College for the dog to be destroyed and examined there A blood test
proved the presence of the same organism as was found in the patient's
blood (Leptospira Canicola) Post-mortem examination showed the
typical kidney infection caused by this organism
To prevent this disease, owners of sick dogs should be warned not
to handle excreta and to take great care to avoid contact with the dog's
urine The infection may also be contracted from bathing in pools contaminated
by the urine of dogs carrying or suffering from the disease,
but efficient chlorination renders the water safe Healthy animals may
carry the organism in their bodies but, if recognised, this condition may
be cured
In 1954 three cases of poliomyelitis were notified
Two of the cases were non-paralytic but the other had palatal and
pharyngeal paralysis and in May 1955 still had some residual palatal
paresis However, much improvement and even complete recovery can
occur within the next two or three years

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