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

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Shoreditch 1900

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Shoreditch]

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During the month of August of the year under consideration, cases of plague made
their appearance in Glasgow, and gave rise to a good deal of uneasiness throughout the
countrv generally. Thanks, however, to the energetic action of the sanitary authority
and its medical officer of health the city was, in the course of a few months, declared free
from the disease. In view of the possibility of the disease making its appearance in
England and Wales, an order dated September 19th, 1900, was issued by the Local
Government Board requiring the immediate notification of any cases of plague which
may occur, and the medical practitioners of Shoreditch were informed accordingly that
plague had been added to the list of notifiable infectious diseases. A memorandum
on the subject of plague, containing a good deal of useful information with respect to
administrative considerations and also as to the symptoms of the disease, was issued
by the Local Government Board, and to afford assistance in the identification of cases
of plague, the Board have made arrangements for bacterologically testing material from
any suspected cases of the disease which may occur
The possibility of the occurrence of cases of plague in Shoreditch, and the action
to be taken in the event of such cases occurring, were considered by the Public Health
Committee, and the Local Government Board, the London County Council, and the
Metropolitan Asylums Board were communicated with upon the subject. Instructions
were given to the sanitary inspectors respecting such matters as the cleansing and
ventilation of dwellings, the cleansing and limewashing of yards, the prompt removal
of house refuse, and the flushing and cleansing of courts and alleys. Attention was
also directed to the great importance of remedying defects in connection with the drains
of houses, especially in cases where rats were found. Numerous competent observers
have pointed out that rats suffer from the plague, and are capable of conveying
infection to mankind. Inasmuch as rats in dwellings usually come from defective
drains, the importance of remedying such defective drains, in view of the possible
occurrence of plague, so as to prevent the rats obtaining access to the dwellings at once
becomes apparent. It was ascertained from the Metropolitan Asylums Board that one
of their hospitals had been determined upon for the reception of persons suffering from
the disease, and information was received that arrangements had been made by the
London County Council for dealing with suspected cases, and for keeping under
observation persons who may have been exposed to infection, and that the services of
an eminent plague specialist, and of a distinguished bacteriologist had been engaged to
assist in clearing up the diagnosis in suspected cases. As far as can be judged
the steps which have been taken for dealing with possible cases of plague in London
are such as can reasonably be anticipated to be sufficient to prevent anything like a
serious outbreak of the disease ; such steps are, however, to be regarded, not as indicating
cause for alarm, but as wise and prudent precautions against a possible danger.
Five intimations were received during the year respecting persons coming into
Shoreditch from places in which plague existed, having arrived on board ship at the
port of London. One such person came from Lisbon, and the other four from Glasgow.
As a matter of precaution the addresses in Shoreditch mentioned were all visited. In
two instances the persons referred to had given wrong addresses.

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