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

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Stepney 1938

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Stepney]

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In April of this year the disinfestation of verminous premises was transferred
to the disinfestation station from the disinfecting station.
The disinfestation of bedding, etc., both in rehousing into Council
properties and in infestation of private houses is carried out by steam at
the disinfecting station, both stations co-operating closely in the general
eradication of vermin.
The scheme is working very well. Most of the tenants appreciate the
efforts of the Council to assist them in keeping their houses clean and welcome
the treatment of their effects before entering into their new dwellings. Most
tenants co-operate well and their homes do them credit.
In only a very few cases have we found re-infestation of flats after the
effects have once been subjected to Hydrogen Cyanide Gas. Out of 604 flats
where the tenants effects were subjected to H.C.N., 46 have been found
re-infested, or 7.6 per cent. The cause is not always apparent, though on
several occasions it can be definitely traced to the bringing in of second-hand
furniture. The caretakers of the buildings co-operate by informing the
Sanitary Inspector if second-hand furniture is brought in, when it can be
inspected and, if necessary, disinfested, with the consent of the tenant.
A quantity of old furniture, etc., amounting to 3 tons 13 cwts. 1 qr. was
collected from houses vacated by tenants on being rehoused by the Council.
This was all destroyed in the incinerator, with the consent of the tenants.
The number of :
(a) Council houses (i) found to be infested 309
(ii) disinfested 309
(b) Other houses (i) found to be infested 705
(ii) disinfested 705
Three methods are employed for freeing infested houses of bed-bugs :
(a) stripping woodwork where necessary and application of blowlamp
to same.
(b) fumigation with Cimex candles or sulphur.
(c) spraying with insecticides, i.e., Vermicine or Zaldecide.
The method employed for ensuring that belongings of tenants arc free
from vermin before removal to Council houses, is that all the furniture and
effects are fumigated with H.C.N., the bedding being dealt with by steam
All the work is carried out by the Local Authority.
To ensure that the flats are kept clean and not re-infested, two specialist
inspectors revisit Council's flats continuously.

† In September, Mr. Edwards was seconded for work in the Air Raid Precautions Department and Mr. Green took charge of the Disinfestation Chamber.

No. of flats and dwellings fumigated40385
No. of rooms involved in the above fumigations136526
No. of flats and dwellings sprayed349320
No. of rooms involved in the above sprayings967544
No. of families whose effects were treated by H.C.N, at the Council's disinfestation chamber1058