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

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Southall-Norwood 1897

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Southall-Norwood]

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It will be seen on comparing the foregoing tables, that the increase
in the number of recorded cases of Infectious Diseases is entirely due
to Diphtheria. Had it not been for the outbreak of this Disease, the
statistics under this Section would have been very satisfactory.
Although in the early part of the year there were three cases of
Diphtheria in different parts of the District, they had apparently no
connection with the outbreak in question, which commenced in the
middle of June, with a series of cases in an isolated group of cottages
at Hayes Bridge.
My enquiries into the origin of this first set of cases related to
water, milk supply and drainage effluvia as probable causes.
In all affected houses the Company's water was used for drinking
purposes, and I doubt very much if the water supply had anything to
do with the outbreak, as in that case the distribution of cases throughout
the District would have been more general.
I, however, submitted a sample of water for Bacteriological and
Chemical examination, and the analysis certificate will be found in the
Section relating to water supply.
With regard to the milk supply as a probable cause, I found that
all infected houses at Hayes Bridge were supplied from Mr. Newell's
farm, which at first appeared to be a very suspicious fact; since many
extensive outbreaks have been traced to the agency of milk.
Milk mav become infected by:—
(1.) Washing out cans or adulterating milk with foul water.
(2.) By storage in infected houses.
(3.) By the presence of disease in the cow from which the milk is
(4.) By an infected person milking the cows.
None of these conditions, however, were found to exist, and moreover
I ascertained that all milk sold at this farm was boiled before
being sent out, constituting what is known as "scalded milk."
This process in itself would prevent infection, as the Diphtheria
poison is easily destroyed at the boiling temperature.
Taking all the facts into consideration I had no hesitation in
concluding that the milk supply was not the cause of the outbreak,
and I may conveniently state here that throughout the outbreak has
any case been found to be due to infection from milk.
As to the sanitary arrangements of these premises, they were far
from satisfactory, no proper drainage system existed; the cesspools
into which they drained having an overflow pipe into the river Crane.
I consider that the defective sanitary arrangements had undoubtedly
acted as strong predisposing causes of the outbreak.

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