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

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Whitechapel 1870

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Whitechapel]

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14
The action taken by the several local authorities in endeavouring to
prevent the extension of disease daring the prevalence of an epidemic is no
doubt very praiseworthy, but instead of their acting as it were spasmodically
under the influence of fear, I would suggest that the carrying out of all the
Sanitary Laws should be done systematically; and in all the districts in the
Metropolis a similar mode of proceeding should be adopted, so that when an
epidemic appears among a dense population all appliances to mitigate the
severity of the outbreak should be in readiness.
In carrying out regulations for the prevention of disease no distinction
should be made between the rich and the poor; and as now, under the regulations
of this Board, all keepers of lodging-houses registered under the
Sanitary Act, 1866, are compelled, under a penalty of forty shillings, to give
notice to the Board of the existence of any contagious or infectious disease,
so should it be made compulsory upon the head of every family where either
cholera, fever, small-pox, or scarlet-fever exists in the house, to give notice of
the same to the Medical Officer of Health of the District, so that the said Medical
Officer might not only be made acquainted with the locality of every case of
epidemic disease, but might have the opportunity of conferring with the medical
attendant of the particular case. It is hardly necessary to say that if such a
plan is carried out the Medical Officer of Health should not be in private
practice. For many reasons, which need not be specified here, it would be
desirable to restrict from private practice the medical officers of all the
Metropolitan Unions.
The following observations, marked by inverted commas, were published
in my Quarterly Report for April, 1859:—
"When small-pox prevails, no age appears to be exempt from its
ravages; for the infant of a week old, and the very aged, have not escaped
its fatal influence. The prejudice against vaccination is generally strongly
manifested in a poor neighbourhood, whenever a child has suffered from an
eruptive disease after vaccination. The eruption, whether syphilitic, eczematous,
or of any other kind common to children at the time of teething, is always
attributed to vaccination, and the surgeon is erroneously blamed for using
'foul anil dirty matter.' Now every medical man knows that children at all
ages are liable to eruptive diseases, and that syphilis does not always manifest
itself on the child at birth, but many weeks frequently elapse before the
peculiar eruption appears; and when it happens that a child, whose constitution
from birth is tainted with syphilis, has been vaccinated, the parents,
although they themselves are alone to blame for the diseased condition of
their offspring, take the opportunity of casting the blame on vaccination.
It may be satisfactory to know that no other disease than the cow-pox can
be communicated from one child to another by the operation of vaccination if
the lymph be taken from a true Jennerian vesicle: I may therefore boldly
affirm, that the assertions of parents interested in concealing their own


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