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

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Mile End 1866

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Hamlet of Mile End Old Town]

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Mortality of Infants.
Table IV. shows the number of deaths at different
ages, the period between birth and five years of ago
gives as usual an excessive and disproportionate 1111111over
all other periods. Popularly this result is accepted
as a matter of course, the idea being that children must
in some preordained or conventional way, have measles,
whooping-cough or scarlatina, in obedience to laws as
immutable as that by which they cut their teeth ; in
other words that the germs of these fatal diseases are
congenital and born in the flesh; such views are, I
believe, entirely fallacious; constitutional diseases, such
as consumption, arising in an abnormal and defective
condition of the integral constituents of the body are
so inherited by the infant and afterwards developed
into fatal disease; but that the specific and active blood
poisons of the infantile diseases referred to, which
incubate, develope and exhaust themselves in a few days,
should remain dormant in the system for an indefinite
period and then suddenly become active, is a theory
quite untenable.
I have been induced to make these observations owing
to having been frequently asked whether these infantile
diseases were not dependent upon natural and inevitable
I cannot, within the limits of a report of this kind,
enter into a detailed discussion of such questions, but
only allude to and express a passing opinion upon them
in their relation to vital statistics, still it would not bo
justifiable to pass without special notice that portion
which constitutes half the total mortality of the country.
If it were possible to exclude and preserve children
from the producing causes of infantile diseases by which
they are surrounded directly they are born, they would