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

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London County Council 1896

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

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The history of a particular group of cases of throat illness is deserving of special mention. A
few cases of diphtheria occurred in the two mouths preceding the holidays in a particular street in the
affected area. On May 23rd, a boy, a Board school attendant, who was living in this street, was
attacked, and from time to time other families living in the same street developed throat illness, and
there is reason to suspect that the first sufferers in these households were boys attending the Board
school. A boy living in this street returned to school after the summer holidays, but did not continue
to attend after September 7th, as he developed an attack of "influenza." His two younger brothers,
however, continued to attend the infants' department of the Board school. Towards the end of
September the boy who had suffered from " influenza " began to develope symptoms which led to his
again coming under medical treatment, and it was ultimately found, on October 5th, that this boy and
a younger sister (not a school attendant), were suffering from well-marked diphtheritic paralysis. The
boy and his two younger brothers attended classes in each of which a number of cases of diphtheria,
subsequently developed.

The effect of the continued prevalence of diphtheria upon school attendance may be seen on examining the appended table—

Board school.
Average attendance in week ending August 28th356317299
,, „ September 5th362331301
,, ,, ,, 12th352320299
,, ,, 19th345321303
,, „ 26th322319273
„ „ October 3rd318317255
,, „ 10th240217152
,, ,, ,, 17th15012578
>» » ,, 24th12310174

It appears therefore that in the week which began on Monday, September 21st (week ending
September 26th), there was already a distinct falling off in the attendances at the boys' and infants'
schools, and that in the week beginning October 5th the attendances recorded in all three departments
of the school become materially reduced. The attendances at the National school (particularly in the
girls' and infants' departments) were also seriously affected at this time. It will be noticed that the
average attendance recorded in the Board school for the week which began on October 12th (week ending
October 17th) had fallen to only a little more than a third of what it was when school re-assembled
after the holidays. During this week the disease practically ceased to manifest a tendency to spread