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

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City of London 1937

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

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If cases of infectious sickness arise in vessels lying in the docks or moored in the
River, and it is deemed inadvisable to transport them to the Port Isolation Hospital
by River, arrangements are made with the London County Council for their removal
by road in one of the Council's Ambulances.
(f) Supervision of contacts.
Contacts remaining on board are kept under daily supervision by the
Deputy Medical Officer of Health, unless the Shipping Company have a Medical Officer
ashore who is able and willing to undertake the daily inspection and to notify
immediately any cases of illness.
Arrangements for the Bacteriological or Pathological Examination of Eats
for Plague.
The bacteriological examination of rats for Plague is carried out in the laboratories
of the Seamen's Hospital, Greenwich, where there is a Staff of skilled Bacteriologists
under the direction of Dr. Arthur Davies. Assistant Rat Officers collect rats from
ships and shore premises in their district each day. They tie to one leg of each rat
a small label, on which is a letter combination indicating the Dock where the rat was
obtained (thus R.A.D. indicates Royal Albert Dock, S.C.D. Surrey Commercial
Dock, &c.) and a number. In their daily report sheets the Assistant Rat Officers enter
each letter-number combination, with notes opposite showing exactly where and how
each rat was obtained. They then place the rats in a linen bag, which they put in
a tin box. At the end of the day they deliver the tin boxes at the laboratory of the
Seamen's Hospital, Greenwich, and receive in exchange empty bags and boxes for
the next day's rats. Rats are delivered about 5 p.m., and examined next morning.
If any rats were found Plague-infected, the letters and number on the label attached
would be telephoned to your Medical Officer, who, on reference to the Assistant
Rat Officer's reports, could at once ascertain exactly where such rats were obtained
and institute Plague preventive measures there. If rats are found dead under
circumstances suggesting that they have died of Plague, they are taken at once to the
laboratory, and an immediate examination and report is requested.
The rats from Tilbury Dock are sent by train from Gravesend to Greenwich,
where they are collected each morning by one of the Staff and taken to the laboratory.
It is not found possible to dip the rats on the Docks in a flea-killing solution,
but it has been arranged that the bags containing the rats should be dipped in kerosine
at the laboratory. The bags returned empty to the Assistant Eat Officers are therefore
saturated in kerosine, which is sufficient to destroy the fleas on the subsequent batches
of rats placed in the bags.
Arrangements made for other Bacteriological and Pathological
All bacteriological and pathological examinations are carried out at the
laboratories of the Seamen's Hospital, Greenwich.
Arrangements for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Venereal Diseases among
Sailors, under International Arrangements.
The Venereal Diseases are not compulsorily notifiable, but efforts are made to
bring to the notice of all seamen in the Port the facilities for free treatment under
the Brussels Agreement.
When the Medical Officers board ships on arrival they always enquire whether
there are any cases of Venereal Disease on board, and if any are reported they
endeavour to see the infected men to point out to them the importance of obtaining
skilled treatment as soon as possible and to acquaint them with the situation of the
clinic nearest the ship's berth and the times at which cases may attend.

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