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

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City of London 1919

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

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Measures Taken.— The cases were landed to Hospital. The forecastles, with their
contents, were immediately subjected to a sulphur fumigation on the 25th October.
This preliminary fumigation was repeated on the 27th, and again once in the case of
the Lascars' forecastle and peak.
The Goanese crew were removed under observation out of the ship, and the crew
reduced to a skeleton on the 29th. All addresses of those leaving were notified for
purposes of surveillance.
Passengers, including Plymouth landings, were notified to their several destinations
on the 27th.
Before any of the crew paid off, their clothing was put through the WashingtonLyons
apparatus for purposes of flea disinfestation.
The native crew remaining was similarly completely disinfested at Denton, though
the preliminary sulphur fumigations on board were, I believe, to be relied on to render
the clothing of this crew flea free.
The whole crew remaining on the ship received a½ c.c. (1,500 million) dose of
Plague vaccine, and the Lascars a subsequent 1 c.c. does (3,000 million).
The cargo was discharged in barges which were worked in daylight hours only.
No craft were allowed alongside after dark.
The ship workers were clad in overalls tied in at the waist and ankles against the
attacks of fleas, and left the ship each evening only.
The ship workers were notified for "surveillance."
The majority of the workers had had practical experience in dealing with previous
Plague ships. The cargo was barged to Tilbury Dock, and stored for a period of a
fortnight from the discharge of the last parcel of goods into the dock receiving shed.
A concrete floored shed was selected for storage and a watch kept on the rat
conditions of the vicinity.
The ship was empty of cargo on the 12th November, and final disinfestation was
made on that date The Clayton Apparatus was used for the holds—375.000 c.f., and
other spaces—272,000 c.f., were disinfested by 396 1-lb. candles. Total space
647.000 c.f.
The total notifications made were:—
Passengers 217
Crew 45
Ship workers 93
Comments.—The history of this ship shows:—
(1) That she was already infected on the outward voyage before the
23rd June
(2) That the rat infection produced no human infection until after
the Marseilles fumigation on the voyage home, October 15th.
(3) That the CO2CO fumigation at Shanghai was not nearly a complete
(4) That the Yokohama SO2 fumigation of the peak for "flies" may be
held to imply the presence of dead rats in the native food stores at that time.
(5) That the dead rats found in the peak at Gravesend being fly-blown
and with fly pupas on them must have been lying dead in the fore peak many
days before the preliminary safety fumigation at Gravesend.
(6) That this fore peak was not fumigated at Marseilles.
In common with many Plague ships brought to the notice of your Worshipful
Committee, in this case the food store forms the focus of infection for human beings,
and the issuer of rations and his assistants are the first victims.
In common with s.s. "Moora" and s.s. "Nankin," this ship was found to be
infected on the outward voyage. Your Medical Officer has already brought to your
notice the theory that:—
(1) Infection of human beings may be and is long delayed, or even entirely
avoided, by chance circumstances in the presence of a Eat Plague epizooic on
a ship, the fleas of the dgad rat being the intermediaries.
(2) If Human Plagues be by chance avoided on one voyage, the rat
epizooic may remain undiscovered, or if discovered undeclared, to infect the
ship on the next outward voyage, and a stray Plague rat may be discovered
near a berth during or after the stay of a ship in port, the ship, not the port, t
then becoming suspect.
(3) Disturbance of a ship's cargo without the simultaneous preventive
of rat invasion of deck quarters, especially by any partial (and it can only be
partial) fumigation of a ship's cargo in situ, in the presence of Plague or where
Plague is suspected, is a procedure dangerous to human life