Autumn Diseases & Times Past

‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases – trap your germs in a handkerchief.’  This slogan was first used during the 1918-20 influenza epidemic. Other earlier measures and problems are reminiscent of our own corona virus problems.

Medically speaking November has never been a good month. Consider some of these reports from Leeds in the 19th century.

  • 1st December 1832 a lengthy cholera outbreak came to an end after the town suffered 1,817 cases almost half of which were fatal.
  • 4th November 1849 a bye law preventing hackney carriages carrying people suffering from Typhus fever led to a court case when a child was illegally carried to The House of Recovery.
  • 10th November 1854 scarlet fever outbreak created a plea for schools to close.
  • 18th November 1865  a doctor reported where some areas had ‘victims of fever with dead bodies allowed to remain in confined room with scores of visitors paying their last respects’

In the Leeds Intelligencer of 14 December 1801, it was reported that ‘…. there was also a leading article advocating the establishment of a House of Recovery in Leeds in which it is mentioned that in Manchester, as the result of an institution of this kind, the number of fever-patients was reduced during the first year from 2,880 to 1,759 and there was a decrease of 400 burials during the same period (but we do not know whether there had been a decrease in other places without such an institution).’

L0025314 A man in a canteen queue, coughing or sneezing over food to
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
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A man in a canteen queue, coughing or sneezing over food to the disapproval of those around him. Lithograph after H.M. Bateman.
By: Henry Mayo BatemanPublished: [194-?]
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

It is noteworthy that Leeds survived and thrived these and other infectious problems. Much of the control was locally generated resulting from local diagnosis and intervention.

Stay alert hands, face, space.

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