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Saturday, 31 May 2014

England must rediscover Public Health

It was the Cholera outbreaks in Soho in 1854, and the work of a London doctor John Snow, that gave impetus to the application of the first Public Health Act. Rapid industrialisation and growth of urban populations, frequently in overcrowded housing lacking sanitary facilities, also saw casualties from Cholera and Yellow Fever reach epidemic proportions. Clean water, sanitation, sewers, the collection of domestic refuse, the provision of public baths and de-lousing facilities were basic measures to control disease, infection and parasite infestation in crowded towns and cities. 

Last week I saw a young woman get off a bus in Lewisham in a singlet that exposed the back of arms completely covered in angry red bed-bug bite marks, like a cartoon version of measles. It's not only Cimex lectularius that has gained new life in England; body and head lice, scabies and other parasites are thriving. More dangerously, London has equivalent multi-drug resistant TB infection rates to those in Asian, South American and Russian Federation areas. In Sheffield Hallam, as the Mail reports today, Roma overcrowding has allowed threadworm, hepatitis and rickets to thrive alongside TB, with children exhibiting signs of malnutrition. Those immigrants - several a day - making it through Calais are also walking infection dumps, infested with scabies and other parasites and diseases. 

Let's be quite clear. These things thrive alongside poverty, overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. They are concentrated in immigrant communities not because immigrants are dirty or bad or careless but because of the conditions they live under; if you housed white English families ten to a room with forty sharing a toilet and with no money to maintain clean bedding and towels you would get the same result. 

The critical thing is that poor public health affects us all; a solicitor taking the bus because her car is in for a service can pick up head lice, the guy ahead of you on the central line escalator can cough or spit and infect you with TB, and a brush with the M&S fitting room can leave you with scabies. If you live in a big town or city you can't insulate yourself against poor public health - like bees in a hive, there's just too much cross-contact. The only way is draconian public health measures - modern workhouses, disinfestation of public transport, delousing stations, breaking up the slums, compulsory TB testing, school hygiene, fumigation of slum houses and bedding. 

Yes, all of this costs money. But without it our urban peoples will become so loaded with disease and parasites that business and the economy will suffer.


Anonymous said...

So is it raaayceest, homophobic or afflicted by some other "right-offness", to not want to be infected by these exquisite little creatures?

I need to be told how to feel Radders...

Where's a lefty when you need one?

Janet said...

I entirely agree with your comments on public health, but to be fair, the young woman you observed is far more likely to have a skin condition called keratosis pilaris. It frequently affects the backs of the upper arm and is surprisingly common. Bed bugs tend to bite 3 or 4 times in lines, anywhere on the body but more often on exposed areas such as wrists, ankles and neck.

DeeDee99 said...

It would be a great help if we didn't allow in the people who are causing these problems.

Just what are they really contributing to our country? The answer in most cases is NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

You reap what you sow, or rather
we reap what they sow.

This won't end well.


Budgie said...

This is a very important topic Raedwald, well done for airing it.

When I have visited school toilets I have often seen a complete lack of hygiene: broken toilets, dispensers and locks, no soap, no towels or dryers, no toilet paper and so on. Our children do not learn the importance of hygiene necessary for our crowded living conditions.

Ed P said...

Budgie, how do the school toilets become so broken down and dirty? Could it be due to a lack of home hygiene and no respect for others? Schools should not have to accept children who have no basic training, but increasingly 5-year old (and incredibly, even older) children are still in nappies at school.
I believe it's mostly Labour's fault for failing to educate their parents (& importing many problem families).

Sceptical Steve said...

"Yes, all of this costs money. But without it our urban peoples will become so loaded with disease and parasites that business and the economy will suffer."
All this is true, of course, but the elephant in the room is the amount of money that is being wasted in fatuous, ego-driven public health initiatives. God only knows why we are continuing to commit more and more money to improve the quality of our drinking water, far beyond the point where we can expect to derive any tangible benefits. If only a small proportion of these resources were devoted to improving awareness of public hygiene, there would be a very high probability of an immediate improvement.