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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The history of the previous voyage of the s.s. "Nagoya" becomes therefore
of interest
Previous Voyage s.s. "Nagoya."—The ship left London February 27th,
and arrived at Bombay March 27th, left Bombay April 19th, and arrived. in London
May 6th. Cargo was discharged at Marseilles and in London, nowhere else. No
fumigation took place.
The homeward cargo consisted of cassia, ginger, albumen, wax, lard, tapioca,
vanilla, egg powder, skins, cocoa, silk waste with cocoons, rape seed.
No mortality was noticed amongst rats during the voyage or in port.
The returns of sick persons on board during the voyage show nothing suspicious.
The significant facts are that the ship came from Bombay on that voyage and
carried a cargo not unattractive to rats.
The present infected voyage shows that the ship was ratty. The previous stav in
London throws fresh light on the history of s.s. "Nanki" and s.s. "Moora," and
lately s.s "Kashmir" detained at Colombo, each with Plague on the outward voyage.
The "Nagoya" Was berthed at No. 13 Shed, Royal Albert Dock, from the 19th
to 29th May.
She was succeeded in this berth by the s.s. "Nankin," 2nd to 11th June. These
two ships shifted to and lay at No. 19 Shed, 30th May to 5th June, 13th June to
25th June, respectively.
The s.s. "Kashmir" lay at No. 17, the between shed (the numbers are odd on
the North side and even on the South) from July 18th to 13th August.
The previous voyage of the s.s. "Kashmir" was between Southampton and
Havre, trooping, and was followed by a stay of some months in Glasgow, so that it is
not likely that Plague rats were on board on her arrival in the Royal Albert Dock.
The facts of the berthing and overlap of these vessels in dock suggest either
s.s. "Nankin" or s.s. "Nagoya" as the original source of infection of
s.s. "Kashmir," and the one of the other.
s.s. " Moora." a ship commandeered by the Commonwealth of Australia, was
also moored close by at this time and had Plague on board on the outward voyage.
In view of the group of cases of ship infections found in June, July and August,
and of the recent "Nagoya" outbreak which comes into the same group, though
with long-delayed human outbreak, it must be assumed that there was cross infection
in the North Quay about Nos. 13, 15, 17 and 19 Sheds between the ships, or that all
received Plague infected rats from this neighbourhood.
It is, of course, possible that both s.s. "Nagoya" and s.s. "Nankin" were
subjects of independent infections. Such a condition would be paralleled in the
histories of s.s "Himalaya" and s.s. "Oceania" in the past, but the juxtaposition
in berthing of the four ships recently infected is highly significant in view of the long
duration of overlap in port. No rat mortality had, however, been observed either at
this point in the dock or on either of the infected ships during their stay in London.
The history and conditions found in s.s. "Nagoya" suggested again the necessity
of routine fumigation of ships from the East, and of a close supervision of the rat
conditions on board at the time of discharge of their cargoes, and the rat conditions
in the neighbourhood of the receiving sheds.
No development in the case of the s.s. "Nagoya" took place, or was expected.
Your Medical Officer was on board this ship during the process of fumigation and
observed :—-
(1) The thoroughness of the methods used.
(2) The danger to life which would of necessity be present in the use of
any lethal gas which did not announce its presence readily, under the usual
circumstances of ship fumigation.
s.s. "Kaisar-I-Hind" arrived from Bombay on the 22nd December, 1919.
On the 24th November, a Canteen sergeant reported sick whilst in the Suez Canal,
with femoral bubo. He had been ill three days. On the 25th November, two privates
were ill with buboes, inguinal and axillary. All three cases, with five contacts, were
landed at Port Said.
All passengers, troops and most of the crew were landed at Alexandria, where
clothes and bedding were disinfected, and the ship Claytonised, 26th November-l0th
December. Before disinfection, no dead or diseased rats were found. After
disinfection 219 dead rats were picked up.