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

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Whitechapel 1858

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Whitechapel]

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from Hooping Cough and Diarrhoea. Two cases of death from Diptheria are
recorded, one, in the Mile End New Town District, and the other, in the Spitalfields.
This disease prevailed extensively on the Continent during last Autumn, and was
exceedingly fatal. It is called "Diptheria," from a Greek word signifying membrane,
a false membrane being formed at the upper and back part of the throat, impeding
deglutition and respiration. It appears, from the last Quarterly Report of the
Registrar General, that, according to the popular theory in France, this disease is
occasioned by the diffusion of putrid effluvia over the fauces. Diptheria may be confounded
with Laryngitis, Croup, Searlatina, Quinsey, &c., but with care, a correct
diagnosis may be formed. Small Pox proved fatal in one instance, (male, aged 13.)
Whether the patient was vaccinated or not, is not stated.
Twenty cases of death were uncertified by any Medical Practitioner, 9 of which
occurred in the Spitalfields Registration District; two of these were cases of Bronchitis
(a male aged 41, and a female aged 64), one was a case of fever, (male aged
60), the other 5 cases were registered as Convulsions of Infants. The remaining
uncertified cases of death, which occurred in the other districts, were, with the
exception of two, (a case of Consumption, aged 24, and a case of Malformation of
the Mouth, aged 17 days), were all cases of Convulsions of Infants. The attention
of the local registrars cannot be too forcibly directed to all cases of death, when
uncertified by a Medical Practitioner.
Forty-eight inquests were held on persons dying within the district during the
last quarter. The deaths in four of these instances are recorded as being caused by
Privation and Cold ; one death was occasioned by Suffocation, or "Asphixia but
"whether natural or from intoxication, the evidence was inconclusive." Eleven cases
of deaths from burns and scalds are recorded, 8 of which, were from the clothes of
parties catching fire. A case of death of a child, 4½ years, from a scald of the
Glottis is registered, but as an inquest was not held in this case,' there is not a record
made as to the mode in which the injury was caused. It may possibly have arisen
from the child drinking hot tea from a tea-pot.
The deaths, excluding the non-residents, are 609, and the births 744 ; the
excess of births over deaths for the last quarter are, therefore, 135, whereas, for the
corresponding quarter of last year, the excess of births over deaths was only 116.
The greatest number of deaths was registered in the third week of March,
when it amounted to 85, and the smallest number was registered in the first week
of January, when it was only 36 ; the average number per week, for the entire
quarter, was 52.8. If the inquests were always registered, as they might, and ought
to be, in the same week in which they are held, the variations in the number of
deaths per week, would not be so great, and the public would not be startled by the


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