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Friday 29 February 2008 8.30
G-11 HEA11 Public Health Responses to Infant Diseases in Europe, 1900-1965
Amphitheatre 2
Network: Health and Environment Chair: Astri Andresen
Organizers: - Discussant: Astri Andresen
Moderators: -
Logie Barrow : Epidemic City Fathers
Epidemic City Fathers in circum-1900 England

Famously, the first-ever vaccinal preventive was against the extremely infectious disease of smallpox (officially 1796). Yet only during the 1970s was an eradication-strategy fully implemented: isolation of sufferers; isolation-plus-vaccination of contacts. What occurred during the 180 years between these two developments was, in England-Wales, ... (Show more)
Epidemic City Fathers in circum-1900 England

Famously, the first-ever vaccinal preventive was against the extremely infectious disease of smallpox (officially 1796). Yet only during the 1970s was an eradication-strategy fully implemented: isolation of sufferers; isolation-plus-vaccination of contacts. What occurred during the 180 years between these two developments was, in England-Wales, a classic of how not to build public support for official medicine, particularly among those who, into the circum-1900 decades, were widely considered unworthy of inclusion within the 'public'.

On their side, anti-vaccinationists of all classes preferred to blame environment, notably insanitation. This underlines our question: what sort of environment did local 'anti' Councillors or Poor-law Guardians help create?

Most prominently then and now, those in the Midland city of Leicester picked-and-mixed intelligently among the policies which Whitehall tried to force on them: non-enforcement of vaccination for as many years as they dared, but widely-supported insistence on isolation in a separate hospital or, well-enforced, in sufferers' homes. Meanwhile, each successive Medical Officer whom they appointed vaccinated as many as he could persuade, not least among those who were coming to be defined under that new word, "contact". In effect, the two sides muddled through together towards something of a forerunner of the 1970s.

Even here, though, luck played a major role. And few other 'anti' local authorities exactly distinguished themselves. Though proud of their locally low vaccination-rates, all too many left hospital-provision till too late. Some even wasted precious time in doctrinal disputation. One example of all these aspects is the Yorkshire industrial town of Dewsbury where also, during late 1904, Councillors tried imposing a news blackout to, of all things, stem panic. The alternative policy (home-isolation or a sort of mini-quarantine) presupposed an increase in the number of local officials to deal with poor people's culture of mutuality in sickness. Quarantine was not so often (as most historians used to say) mothballed as moth-eaten.

Quarantining of whole cities had long been associated, at least by rhetorically able opponents (plus historians in tow), with absolutism. Yet Australia, self-consciously the most (albino-) democratic country ever, had long relied on oceanic isolation and on quarantining: irrespective of laws, vaccinal practice remained more for emergencies. This logic, though, might also impel the quarantining of large groups of fellow-Australians who, on their side, might be less than enthusiastic. During 1903, Tasmania's government quarantined the island's second city of Launceston. The inhabitants, from the mayor down, celebrated defiance.

True, "well-vaccinated" towns were not necessarily immune, partly because Whitehall medics had admitted the need for re-vaccination later than most of their continental equivalents. Sheffield's epidemic of 1887-8 showed insufficient provision of hospitals, themselves helping as also in other cities to spread infection in their localities, a possibility which Whitehall had admitted even more belatedly.

Everywhere, smallpox seemed a virus with a rosy future. Ironic that its doom was first sounded in one of the world's most embattled, and also no more than relatively well-provided, 'anti' cities.


Logie Barrow (Bremen University)
tandecki@uni-bremen.de (Show less)

Marie Clark Nelson : Sun of the Knife: Treatin Children with Skeletal or other forms of Tuberculosis at Apelviken ca 1900-1930
At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries coastal sanatoria began to be established in Sweden modelled on predecessors on the continent and in other parts of Scandinavia. Children suffering from various forms of skeletal tuberculosis and similar diseases were sent from all over the country ... (Show more)
At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries coastal sanatoria began to be established in Sweden modelled on predecessors on the continent and in other parts of Scandinavia. Children suffering from various forms of skeletal tuberculosis and similar diseases were sent from all over the country for treatment that lasted months or even years. This paper explores aspects of the scientific culture and resulting treatment of children at Apelviken, a sanatorium located on the western coast of Sweden just south of the city of Varberg that was established in 1902. The research is based on surviving original sources from numerous archives, contemporary scientific journals and government reports and documents.

The scientific culture is illuminated through the exploration of the scientific methods that were applied, and the reasoning that accompanied the choice of treatment forms. The treatment regime that was chosen affected the lives of these children and their future prospects. The material is also interpreted in the light of gender theories and shows the ways in which the identities of these boys and girls were moulded by the political and scientific cultures of the day. (Show less)

María-Isabel Porras, Rosa Ballester : The incorporation of medical technology for the treatment of the acute stage of poliomyelitis in Spain (1940-1965)
Even though the presence of poliomyelitis in Spain has not been studied yet, this illness had a similar prevalence to that in other countries and became a prominent medico-social problem throughout the first half of the XX Century. In fact, because of the 1916 epidemic outbreak and the National Medicine ... (Show more)
Even though the presence of poliomyelitis in Spain has not been studied yet, this illness had a similar prevalence to that in other countries and became a prominent medico-social problem throughout the first half of the XX Century. In fact, because of the 1916 epidemic outbreak and the National Medicine Academy report, poliomyelitis became a communicable disease. Afterwards, the 1929 epidemic outbreak in Madrid was dealt with according to modern epidemiological criteria by the newly created Epidemiological Central Service. Several epidemic outbreaks occurred later in other places in Spain, and an important increase in the poliomyelitis morbidity and mortality rates occurred at the end of the Civil War, followed by other new epidemic outbreaks in the 1950s. During this last decade several epidemiological, serological and virological studies were carried out and the first vaccination campaign with Salk vaccine was started in 1958. Another larger campaign with Sabin vaccine replaced the previous campaign in 1963. At the same time a clinical assistance to the polio victims, in which the main technological innovations to treat the acute and chronic stages of poliomyelitis were being introduced, was configured. Special attention was paid to respiratory troubles.
The main aim of the paper is to study how the clinical assistance to the polio victims was configured in Spain between 1940 and 1965, and to establish when respiratory troubles became an important subject. It is our intention to analyze how the incorporation of medical technology such as artificial respirators (“iron lungs”) was produced and to asses the degree of accuracy of this incorporation according to the WHO recommendations and models of other countries. We shall try to establish the role played in this incorporation by medical Congresses, international agencies and morbidity-mortality rates, as well as the role played by political, social and economical factors.
The current paper, which draws on a wider framework of a research project that seeks to reconstruct the history of polio in Spain throughout the XX Century, should be framed into the border context of the historiography of medical technologies, historical epidemiology and technological innovation. (Show less)

Dora Vargha : The decade of summer fears: Polio epidemics in 1950's Hungary
Poliomyelitis swept over Hungary in several outbreaks, between 1952 and 1959, attacking the young population, threatening to undermine efforts to recover the war-stricken society. Polio's effect on Hungarian society was considered so significant, that revolutionary prime-minister Imre Nagy took steps to deal with the disease amidst the turbulent events of ... (Show more)
Poliomyelitis swept over Hungary in several outbreaks, between 1952 and 1959, attacking the young population, threatening to undermine efforts to recover the war-stricken society. Polio's effect on Hungarian society was considered so significant, that revolutionary prime-minister Imre Nagy took steps to deal with the disease amidst the turbulent events of the 1956 uprising. The polio outbreaks in 1950's Hungary can be seen as exceptional events through which to understand the forming Communist society. I concentrate on two questions: 1) how post-war Communist governments and the existing, as well as newly established, medical institutions reacted to the disease, and 2) how the disease affected conceptions of the socialist productive and reproductive body. Namely, I am interested in how a pro-natalist population policy confronted large-scale childhood disease, what that meant for the new responsibilities of motherhood, and finally, through what medical, technological and institutional innovations it managed to control the disease. My sources are medical texts, government and hospital documents, and accounts by survivors. The paper offers comparison with the issues of polio in U.S. history. (Show less)



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