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

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City of London 1904

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Port of London]

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One man was told off to collect all dead rats, and was carefully instructed
to handle them only with a pair of tongs and place them at once into a bucket
containing a solution of corrosive sublimate (strength 1 in 1,000). These
were then conveyed to the ship's furnace and there cremated.
The vessel was visited daily, but no further cases occurred either among the
crew or the men engaged in discharging the ship.
After the vessel was discharged, the linings of the ship were taken down
and all dead rats collected and burnt, the holds were washed down with a
solution of disinfecting fluid, the bilges disinfected, and the water tanks
emptied and cleansed.
The measures of disinfection, &c., seem to have been efficient, for no case of
actual or even suspected Plague arose amongst the crew or persons employed
in the unloading of the ship.
The number of rats destroyed was 245, of which 101 were destroyed as a
result of fumigation by your officers.
The fluid collected from the bubo was examined by Dr. Klein, the result
being positive in every respect, and he even succeeded in producing the disease
of Plague in a captive rat by means of this fluid.
The man's condition improved in a remarkable manner after two injections
of the Anti-Plague serum, and he ultimately left the Hospital convalescent
and returned to Spain. The vessel proceeded to Barry to load a cargo on her
outward voyage, and the fact was duly notified to the Medical Officer of
Health for that Port.
This Anti-Plague serum was prepared after the method of Dr. Haffkine
by Dr. Klein in 1901 for this Authority, about 950 doses remain, kept in
a cool place ; Dr. Klein reports that it is still efficient, and the opinion would
seem to be confirmed by the rapid improvement in the patient after the first
The following Table shows the number of rats caught and destroyed on
vessels visiting the Port, and in the Docks, during the year 1904, and the
total since the introduction of this control in 1901.

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