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Author Topic: Typhoid Epidemic at Maidstone 1897  (Read 1180 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: Typhoid Epidemic at Maidstone 1897
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2018, 17:11:59 »
Great stuff HC, this is why us who work in the water industry have to take what seems like extreme precautions to keep everything clean.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent


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Typhoid Epidemic at Maidstone 1897
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 14:06:31 »
Typhoid in Kent.
Epidemic at Maidstone.
The Cause of the Outbreak.
The cause of the outbreak of an epidemic of typhoid fever in the town of Maidstone, in Kent, England, appears to be directly traceable to the water supply. This is plainly indicated in a report of the meeting of the municipal council of Maidstone, published in the Kent Messenger of October 2, when the following report of the medical officer of the council on the outbreak was read :
   " September 27, 1897. Mr. Mayor and Gentlemen. Epidemic Outbreak of Typhoid Fever. Having regard to the whole of the circumstances that have come to our knowledge concerning the outbreak of typhoid fever now present in the borough of Maidstone, including the local incidence of the outbreak, the physical character of the gathering ground of a particular section of the water supply, and certain social factors associated with the agricultural operations of hop picking and fruit gathering, and from carefully conducted chemical and bacteriological experiments now in progress, we have already reached conclusions of such urgent importance, that we feel it incumbent upon us to communicate the same to you at the earliest possible moment, without waiting for the completion of the investigation. In due course we shall be prepared to report in detail the facts upon which the following conclusions are based; but, from the nature of the experiments we are conducting, the full report must not be hurried. Accordingly we beg to say we are agreed as follows:
1. From a consideration of the facts as a whole, we have no reasonable doubt but that the outbreak is due to the pollution of the Farleigh section of the Maidstone Water Company's water supply.
2. From our inspection of the physical character and condition of the gathering ground from which this portion of the supply is obtained, we believe that the water so derived is liable to contamination by specific typhoid polluting matter.
3. By actual observation we obtained positive evidence of a nature that supports the belief in the possibility of such pollution.
4. By chemical and bacteriological experiments we have obtained positive evidence that pollution by animal matter has actually taken place, and the presence of a large number of micro-organisms derived from animal alvine excretions in the water of the 'Tutsham Field Spring' demonstrates that pollution of a nature calculated to produce typhoid fever has occurred."
  (Signed) Matthew A. Adams.F.R.C.S.,
   Medical Officer of Health to the borough of Maidstone, and Public Analyst for the County of Kent, & c.
   G. W. Washbourn, M.D., F.R.C.P.,
   Physician to the London Fever Hospital, Lecturer to and Assistant Physician at Guy's Hospital, &c.

This Farleigh water supply appears to have been an undesirable source even so far back as 1860, when the water company applied for their Act to supply the borough with water " from wells sunk in the green sand at Farleigh." This is shown from a retrospect published in the same newspaper. From this it appears that a public meeting of the inhabitants of Maidstone was held, at which the above scheme was discussed, and another one brought forward by a company called the Maidstone Spring Water Company, who had also promoted a bill in Parliament to supply the borough with water from the chalk at Boxley. The fact was elicited at this meeting that the majority of the Paving Commissioners, as well as ratepayers possessing property assessed at 25,000, were in favour of the chalk scheme, and one of the speakers, a Mr. Robinson, made, perhaps, the most important speech. We give his own words;
"As a comparative stranger to Maidstone I may naturally be considered incompetent to judge of the capabilities of the different sources in the neighbourhood to furnish a supply of pure water to the town, but on the other hand, I possess the advantage of being wedded to no particular scheme, and as my interests are identical with those of any other owner of property in the town, I can speak from personal knowledge of the advantages which Croydon has derived, from obtaining a supply of pure water from the chalk. For many years past, Croydon was regarded as one of the most unhealthy towns in England, but by carrying out a perfect system of drainage, and obtaining a plentiful supply of pure water, it is now one of the healthiest towns in England."
The witness added these prophetic words :
"The opposition to a pure water supply at Maidstone may be similar to that fatal mistake of opposing a direct line from Maidstone to Dover. At Croydon, where we used to take the water from the green sand, we were always obliged to filter it before it could be used. The feeling of this meeting was evidently In favour of the " chalk " scheme, which, however, did not receive the approval of Parliament,and consequently had to be dropped. It will be seen from this that before the company commenced their works there was considerable doubt in the minds of some of the rate-payers as to the advisability of utilising the Farleigh springs for public supply purposes".

          The Telegraph (Aus) 17 November 1897.

The total number of typhoid cases in Maidstone when the last mail left was over 1570. The mortality rate was unfortunately going up, and there had been seven deaths since 9th inst., increasing the total to 75. Amongst the latest victims is Mrs. Anscomb, the wife of a former Mayor of Maidstone. She was a very popular Mayoress, was only 40 years of age, and leaves two young children. In the same street there are 19 other residents down with the malady. The friendly societies are now disbursing from fIve to six hundred pounds a week. A later telegram states that in the 10 hours up to 8 o'clock on the 11th inst., 20 fresh cases had been notified. . The correspondent adds that there is no disguising the fact that the situation is becoming more serious every day. Amongst the gifts were 1000 jars of extract of beef. The fresh cases of typhoid reported since 10 o'clock on the 12th inst. numbered 33, against 20, 12, and 32 for the three preceding days. This brings the aggregate up to 1619. There has, therefore, been a great increase, instead of the looked for decrease, in the number of cases since Sunday, There are some 100 nurses engaged in public and private nursing, but not one of these has yet caught the infection. The cases continue to increase so rapidly that the authorities recognise the necessity of making large additions to the nursing staff.
          The Catholic Press (Aus) 27 November 1897.

The outbreak started in mid-August 1897 and lasted until the end of the year. The total number of cases was 1,847 with 132 deaths.
See also Cholera and Typhoid Fever in Kent. Christopher Collins, pages 21-23 @


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