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

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City of London 1930

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

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fumigation, are required to have traps set in all spaces where signs of
rats are discovered. The trapping may be carried out by professional
rat-catchers or, in some cases, by members of the crew, under the
supervision of the officers of the Port Sanitary Authority.
(b) Premises in the vicinity of Docks and Quays. The Port of London Authority
constantly carry out methods of rat-destruction ashore in the Port. Trapping
is the method principally employed, but the Authority are always ready to
test any new method of rat-destruction that is brought to their notice. The
condition of all shore premises is under the constant supervision of the
Sanitary Inspectors and rat-searchers of the Port Sanitary Authority, who
draw the attention of the officers of the Port of London Authority to any
signs of rat-infestation they may discover.
(4) Measures taken for the detection of rat prevalence in ships and on shore:—
Examination by Inspectors and Rat-searchers, as already described.
(5) Rat-proofing:—
The Port of London Authority have, during the year, continued their scheme of
rat-proofing in the Docks and Warehouses. No rat Plague has occurred on shore in
the Port for 14 years, and the policy of the Port of London Authority in constantly
applying methods of rat-destruction and progressively rat-proofing the Docks and
Warehouses has been an important factor in keeping the Port of London free from
Plague infection.
On 1st January, 1930, there came into operation the Public Health (Deratisation
of Ships) Regulations made by the Ministry of Health in accordance with Article 28
of the International Sanitary Convention, 1926. By these Regulations every ship
arriving from a foreign port at a port in England or Wales, is required to be in
possession of a valid certificate of Deratisation or Exemption from Deratisation.
By a valid certificate is meant one issued not more than six months previously in
a port either in this country or abroad which has been notified to the Office Internationale
d'Hygiene Publique by the Government concerned as having such personnel
and equipment as will enable the Port Health Authority to make an efficient inspection
as to the number of rats on board, and to carry out deratisation when necessary.
If no valid certificate is produced the Medical Officer of Health must inspect
the ship, and if he finds that the conditions are such that the number of rats on board
is kept down to a minimum, he must issue a Deratisation Exemption Certificate.
If, on the other hand, he finds that there is evidence of more than a minimum number
of rats on board he must require the ship to be deratised to his satisfaction, and on
the completion of this operation must issue a Deratisation Certificate.
Such Certificates are accepted in the Ports of all other countries which have
ratified the International Sanitary Convention.
Article 28 of the International Sanitary Convention should solve satisfactorily
the vexed question of the fumigation of ships ; should lead to a great reduction in
the number of rats afloat and should greatly diminish the risk of spread of Plague by
sea-borne commerce, without imposing any unreasonable restrictions on shipping.
It is obvious that, if there is rat Plague or even a suspicion of rat Plague on board
a ship, fumigation must be carried out promptly as a Public Health measure, regardless
of the fact that the vessel may be in possession of a valid certificate of Deratisation
or exemption from Deratisation and the International Sanitary Convention provides
for this.
During the year the new Regulations have worked quite smoothly in the Port
of London, and this is in no small measure due to the way in which the Shipping
Companies have co-operated with the Port Sanitary Authority.

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