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

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Twickenham 1949

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Twickenham]

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The Corporation have a very successful scheme for enabling occupiers
of premises infested by rats or mice or insects to receive the assistance of the
pest destruction staff. Occupiers may enter into a contract with the Corporation
to have pest destruction carried out. In 1949 almost 600 contracts were
made.
Control of Infectious Diseases.
The control of infectious diseases forms an important part of the work
of the health department. This control is concerned with every citizen in
the town, and is carried out to lessen not only the number of deaths from
infectious disease, but also to lessen the mount of illness and physical,
economic, social and psychological damage. Some infectious diseases are
preventable, such as diphtheria, smallpox, typhoid, dysentery and food
poisoning. Others, especially the airborne infections, are not yet preventable,
but can be limited by good personal and social hygiene; examples are the
common cold, poliomyelitis, cerebral spinal fever, whooping cough, tuberculosis,
and streptococcal infections such as sore throat and scarlet fever. The
contribution of the health department is in the assistance it can give on such
matters as early diagnosis, tracing of contacts, advice to patients and contacts
on how to limit spread, obtaining laboratory confirmation of specific
infections, and arranging admission to hospital.
Air-borne Infections.
The germs causing these air-borne infections live in the air passages not
only of the victims, but also of healthy carriers. The germs are carried from
one person to another, either on comparatively large droplets of spray sent
out through coughing, sneezing and talking, or on finer droplets about the
size of smoke particles, which can float in the air for a considerable time,
or on dust which may settle on the floor and be raised during sweeping and
dusting. The public can assist in preventing the spread of these diseases by
protecting the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, by remaining
indoors as soon as the symptoms of a cold appear, and whenever possible
by damp dusting and sweeping.
Artificial Immunisation.
In 1937 and 1938 there were 116 and 70 cases respectively of diphtheria.
In 1949 there was not a single case. Diphtheria has been almost wiped out
by the active campaign of immunisation against it which has been running
since 1942. To keep up this record we need to have all children immunised
against this disease. Every mother should arrange to have her baby done
either by the clinic, or by her own doctor, at any time after the child is eight
or nine months old.
Food Infections.
Increase in Food Poisoning.
For the past eight years the number of outbreaks of food poisoning has
been rising. We in Twickenham have had our share of them, in some cases
affecting only a few people, in other cases hundreds. The reasons for the increase
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