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

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Shoreditch 1907

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Shoreditch]

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The mortality from diarrhoea in Shoreditch during 1907 was much below the
average, the deaths being fewer than in any year since 1895. Doubtless, the absence
of prolonged hot dry weather during the summer months, the average temperature
being lower than usual, together with flies being less numerous than ordinarily, had
a good deal to do in connection with this low mortality. During recent years
observers have been directing attention to the importance of the part played by flies in
the propagation of infectious diseases, especially those diseases which are accompanied
by diarrhoea. The usual breeding places of flies are accumulations of certain waste
pro-ducts, especially those which generate heat, such as manure heaps. The hotter
the weather, the more quickly are flies produced. They feed upon various kinds
of matter, and also upon certain articles in common use for human food. It is
through visits paid by flies to infectious matter and then to human food stuffs, such
as milk, butter, sugar, and the like, that infection is likely to be conveyed. The main
steps, therefore, to prevent flies acting as agents foT the transmission of disease is,
firstly, to endeavour to reduce their numbers to a minimum by the frequent removal of
manure heaps and other accumulations in which they are likely to breed: secondly,
to protect food from their visits, and, thirdly, to give particular attention to general
sanitary measures for preventing their access to excrementitious matters. In respect
to this latter, the frequent flushing of courts, alleys, and other places which are
liable to be contaminated with excrement, especially during the summer months, is
a public health measure of great importance for the prevention of diarrhoea. A
large number of courts and alleys in the Borough are flushed and cleansed at regular
intervals by the officers of the Borough throughout the year. Many of them, however,
ought to be flushed daily during the diarrhoea season, that is, during the hot summer
The deaths from diarrhoea were distributed during the year as follows:—In
January 2 were registered, in February 2, in May 1, June 3, July 6, August 8,
September 23, October 26, and November 3. The diarrhoea season was later than
usual this year, most deaths occurring during September and October instead of
during August and September. Altogether the deaths from diarrhoea numbered 74,
not including 52 deaths, chiefly of infants under one year, attributed to enteritis or
gastro-enteritis, as compared with 194 in 1906. Of the deaths during 1907, 57
were of infants under one year and 11 were of children aged between one and five
years. The death-rate was 0.64 per 1,000, as compared with 1.68 in 1906.
The mortality from diarrhoea amongst infants under one year in Shoreditch
during 1907 was at the rate of 15.3 per 1,000 births registered during the year, as
compared with 40.3 for 1906 and 30.6 for 1905. The figures for the metropolis
were 9.2, 27.3 and 20.7 respectively for the three years. A table giving a comparison
of these rates for previous years is contained in the report for the year 1905.
The deaths from diarrhoea amongst young infants were in the great majority of
those investigated of infants being brought up otherwise than at the breast.

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