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Title: Quarantine in the British West Indies and the small-pox controversy of 1902-04
Author: Masson, George H.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1907
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By adopting "the recommendations of the West Indian Inter-colonial Sanitary Convention of 1904, recently held at Barbadoes, the British colonies in these parts have at one leap emerged, in the matter of dealing with infected ships, from practices not altogether unlike those prescribed by the Venetians of the 14th century to a modern system of marine sanitation based upon the present day knowledge of the causation and mode of spread of infectious disease. It v/as certainly fitting that this change should have taken place at a time when the epidemiology of our tropical colonies is receiving special attention, and when excellent work is being done, under the aegis of the Colonial Office, by the Commissioners of the London and Liverpool schools of Tropical Medicine, towards improving the public health of the more notoriously insalubrious portions of the Empire, thereby facilitating the development of commercial resources hitherto exploited with difficulty on account of the prevalence in those regions of strange and fatal diseases, the nature and origin of which, though now becoming apparent as a result of untiring research, have been, unfortunately, but little understood in the past. This removal of the barrier of Quarantine from the path of free inter-colonial trade, in times of epidemic disease, and the substitution for it of the more rational methods of dealing with infected ships now agreed upon, is remarkable as being one of the most striking instances yet afforded of the application of modern sanitary science to .the principles-of the new Imperial idea, the mainspring of which, as I understand it, is to foster closer and freer commercial relationships, not only between the Mother Country and the rest of the Empire, but between the various colonies themselves. It was also fitting that the Delegates to that Convention should have been guided in their deliberations by a medical expert from the Local Government Board of England, specially commissioned to do so after visiting the different islands, and making himself personally acquainted with local conditions affecting the Public Health. The appointment of this Imperial officer may be taken as something in the nature of an atonement on the part of Downing street for having allowed to endure, during a period of forty years after its disuse in the United Kingdom, a mischievous practice introduced in this Colony by an Order in Council dated 10th November 1818, which "proclaimed and declared that the same Regulations, Provisions, Pains, Penalties and Forfeitures for the due performance of quarantine shall be held to be in force within this island, its Forts, Harbours, Maritime Jurisdiction, and its Dependencies, as are now in force in Great Britain, in virtue of several Acts of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of the Order of *His Majesty in Council". The immediate reason for the promulgation of this Order as recited in the Proclamation issued at the time was as follows:- "Whereas information has been "obtained that the smallpox prevails is the neighbouring"provinces of Spanish America, and it becomes necessary for the preservation off the Public Health to provide "against the contagion thereof in this island, either "from the vessels that now have arrived or hereafter may 'arrive at this port, either from the said Provinces or "elsewhere wheresoever". Information is wanting as to whether the quarantine regulations successfully fulfilled their object on that occasion; certainly they failed to do so a year ago when, as a result of infection from Venezuela, Trinidad was the scene of an out-break of smallpox in which upwards of four thousand cases were recorded. Bearing in mind the uncertain protection afforded by the enforcement of quarantine, it vias generally feared that the epidemic of.smallpox which had broken out in Barbados during the summer of 1902 would sooner or later spread to Trinidad, This feeling was amply justified before the end of the year when, on November 8th, I discovered five persons suffering from the disease at No.45, Duncan street, in Port of Spain, the Capital city of the island. Before dealing with the controversy on the recent epidemic of small-pox, it will be necessary to say a few words regarding the disease itself. I would like to mention that what follows is not a collection of facts made up in the light of information acquired after the disease had been widely discussed in all its aspects, and authoritative opinion favourable to my contention finally accepted, but in beality an extended copy of notes made at an early , stage of the controversy, and intended for publication in the British Medical Journal.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Sc.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
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