HC Deb 30 April 1895 vol 33 cc122-3
MR. A. M. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, whether an outbreak of cholera affecting several companies of the East Lancashire regiment at Lucknow has been traced to the barrack room filter; whether his attention has been called to the examination by Dr. Sims Woodhead and Dr. Cartwright Wood, at the Research Laboratory of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, of filters used in the Home Army, and to their conclusion that such filters are not only useless against disease, but probably materially increase the risk; whether he is aware that, as the consequence of applying to over 200,000 quarters a special system of filtration, the French War Office found that wherever the system was introduced, typhoid fever disappeared, and that as its introduction extended, the number of cases continually decreased, showing, according to the last report, less than one-half of the average before the introduction of the system in 1888; whether he can say what special kind of filter is used in the system adopted by the French War Office; and whether he is aware that the number of cases of typhoid fever per 1,000 was 60 per cent. higher in the British Army in 1893 than in the French Army?


There was an outbreak of cholera at Lucknow last year. The Government of India appointed a Special Committee to inquire into the cause, and the Report has not yet been issued. It appears, however, that it was due to a contaminated filter and filter-bed in the barracks. The report by Doctors Woodhead and Wood, which the hon. Member refers to, was one made last year to the British Medical Association on the relative efficiency of filters in general, and, though very interesting and instructive, it presents no new facts, but confirms the already existing opinion that the ordinary filters so largely used in the barracks in India are not effectual for the perfect purification of water unless it is previously boiled. Two thousand of the "Chamberland-Pasteur" filters have been supplied to French barracks, hospitals, and laboratories; and it has been estimated that the deaths from enteric fever are 50 per cent lower in 1892 than in 1886–7, and the cases 60 per cent. fewer. Another filter very similar to the "Chamberland" is the "Berkefeld," which is largely used in Germany, and both these filters are now under trial both in England and in India. There are no statistics for the year 1893, from which a comparison of the ratio per 1,000 of enteric fever cases in the British and French Armies can be drawn; but in 1892 it had been ascertained that the ratio per 1,000 admissions was lower in the British than in the French Army, but the ratio per 1,000 of deaths and the percentage of mortality was higher. It must, however, be remembered that the conditions of service and the numbers of troops quartered in unhealthy climates of the respective armies make any practical comparison very difficult.