[BITList] Trickle-down effect

HUGH chakdara at btinternet.com
Fri Mar 5 15:48:10 GMT 2010


It could be as fast and brutal as that, and thank God it is excessively rare
in the UK.  When researching my article I was struck by the resemblance
between the situation re the recent swine flu pandemic, and the 1831 cholera
epidemic in the UK, which was the first such on record.  A Royal
Proclamation was issued on 21-6-1831, setting out rules for quarantine, etc,
though the disease had yet to appear in the UK.  But it seems an early
appearance of it was very inconvenient, given an early example of government

Between the 2nd of July and the 2nd of August, 1831, the John Marshall I
mentioned in my last treated 24 cases of what he diagnosed as the Indian
cholera.  The first patient died in the 5th of July, and on the 6th Dr
Marshall wrote to the Privy Council with his opinion that the man had died
of the Indian cholera. He continued to report the cases as they occurred -
no others died - and a Doctor Daun who had served in India was sent north to
investigate with a colleague.  Daun's report, via an anonymous letter in the
Glasgow Herald, written by a stooge, criticised Marshall for being alarmist
about what, it was claimed, was no more than an outbreak of the annual
cholera nostra. The papers took up that line, and Marshall was ridiculed.
He immediately published a book attacking his critics, defending his
diagnoses and describing the cases in graphic detail.

By the summer of 1831 the Indian cholera was in the Baltic ports, and towns
in Britain that traded with the Baltic started to take precautions.. There
is no evidence of Port Glasgow doing anything about it, but a Board was set
up in Sunderland.  The medical section of the Board seems to have consisted
of a William Clanny and his junior, James Kell.  Though Kell had had
experience of the cholera in India, the Board did nothing about his reports
to them of what he said was Asiatic cholera among the inhabitants of the
town.  He reported cases from September.

It wasn't until the 23rd of October, when a man died and Clanny declined to
report it to the authorities, that matters came to a head when Kell took the
initiative and reported it himself.  The upshot was that Dr Daun was sent
north again to set up a quarantine system for ships arriving in the port.

Local businessmen objected to the loss of trade caused by the quarantine,
and a "there is no cholera" group was formed, backed by local doctors who
issued a statement attacking the very idea of there being cholera in the
town. Before things settled down and people faced reality, at least 215
people had died of the cholera in Sunderland.  By the end of another
outbreak the following year, over 30,000 had died of it in the UK.

When Daun was sent north to Sunderland, it wasn't to have a look around and
report, it was to deal with a situation already accepted as serious. The
Port Glasgow cases were an inconvenient truth.  Why? God knows.  So there we
are. The first death admitted to in Sunderland is the first mentioned in the 
record books.


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