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

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Barking 1947

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Barking]

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not quite convinced about his figures but recognised there was a lot to be said for
his submission and, in the same way, in our modern schools if—on the one hand—
a child has an added chance of infection by reason of meeting other children—so,
also, can it be said to have a less chance by reason of the fact that the children are
meeting together under very good hygienic conditions, adequate ventilation and so
As a matter of fact I would not like to answer this question categorically one
way or the other—it is like a ledger in which there are both credits and debits.
Classes at school or whole schools can be closed if the Medical Officer so advises,
but by long experience it has been found that this is only advisable occasionally
because whether we like it or not children will mix with one another, particularly
in towns, and as a matter of fact keeping the children at school (where they can
remain under expert observation if necessary) has much to commend it.
Infectious disease among school children showed a decline during the war and
we are still in this fortunate condition.
Scarlet Fever showed a decrease during the year, 71 cases being notified as
against 101 in 1946.
Whooping Cough is one of the diseases which must, of necessity, be spread in
school because, of course, it is spread everywhere, in buses, cinemas, churches, at
parties—where children may be together.
It is unfortunate that with regard to Whooping Cough we have not yet any
reliable lead as to how to prevent it. Work is being done at the present time but
there are some special difficulties in any research which depends upon the diagnosis
of this disease.
The fact is there are children who cough and who "whoop" but who are not
suffering from Whooping Cough, and there are children who cough and who do not
"whoop" who are suffering from Whooping Cough.
Scientific investigation entails hours and hours of work on each individual case.
Incidentally it is my personal view that many mothers keep their children home
from school when they know Whooping Cough is prevalent—and small blame to
them—and that these parents, when they have to give a reason for Tommy or Mary
not being at school so often say that he or she is suffering from Whooping Cough,
a very understandable but sometimes inaccurate statement.
With all these difficulties it is well nigh impossible to assess the prevalence of
Whooping Cough, a disease which is so very often intensely distressing and can,
of course, be fatal.
Measles is another disease which can be spread in school although, as with other
diseases, it can be spread elsewhere and—indeed—is often spread elsewhere.
Fortunately the type of measles which has prevailed has not been particularly severe,

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