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

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Acton 1901

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Acton]

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9. Destruction of Rats.
Rats are very prone to plague. The first warning that plague is
incident may be deaths amongst rats. Plague-infected rats leave their
runs, they appear dazed, become seized with convulsions and speedily
die. Whether the rat is seized with plague before man and thus infects
him, or whether man infects the rat, is a question as yet undecided.
Many epidemics are believed to have been traced to rats, yet in other
localities, and markedly so in Glasgow, the rats have not been found
infected by plague, either before or after the outbreak. It is by the
vermin in the rat's coat that infection is probably conveyed to man.
The vermin leave the rat soon after the animal dies, and as it is found
that the vermin contain the bacilli, the poison may gain entrance to the
human body by vermin bites or by the abrasion of skin consequent on
the scratching they induce.
Parasites, such as fleas, bugs, and lice, acquire the bacillus from
feeding on plague-sick persons, or they may gather it from clothing,
bedding, &c., soiled by excretions.
10. Removal of Nuisances.
11. House to House Visitation.
The following table gives the cases of Infectious Disease notified
during the year 1901, and the total cases notified in each locality:—