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

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Acton 1904

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Acton]

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be made a penal offence to have an infant in bed with its
parents. Every mother on registering the birth of her
child is given a leaflet warning her of the danger of this
Diarrhœa.—Sixty-six deaths in children under one.
year were registered as due to diarrhœa. What was the
cause, and what measures did we take to prevent or
reduce this high mortality ?
First let me state the predisposing causes:
1. The mothers have to leave the infants to the
care of ignorant women, or sometimes quite young
children, during their absence at the laundries; or
Frequently the parents are quite ignorant of the
suitable food to give a child brought up by hand.
In either of the above cases an unhealthy and
inflammatory state of the bowel is set up.
2. When the hot weather comes, the microorganism,—viz.:
the exciting cause, and which is found
in the dust of the streets, gains an entrance into the
infant's intestine by means of its food, and finding in
the unhealthy intestine everything favourable for its
growth, rapidly multiplies, and throws out a toxin or
poison which speedily kills the infant.
What measures do we take to prevent this mortality ?
House to house visitation and instruction to
mothers; the time chosen has to be when the women
are most likely to be found at home.
Free distribution of leaflets on summer diarrhœa,
showing the importance of boiling milk and water, and
in keeping the food covered over so as to avoid contamination
by dust and flies.