HC Deb 08 March 1915 vol 70 cc1170-2W

asked the President of the Local Government Board if he is aware that Alice Bateman, aged three years, who was removed to the Metropolitan Asylums Board Fever Hospital, Homerton Grove, on or about 9th October last, suffering from scarlet fever, was subsequently reported to be doing well, then to have contracted chicken-pox, then to be quite well again and soon to be discharged, and then to be suffering from diphtheria; will he say whether a sequence of illnesses is common in the experience of the hospitals of the Metropolitan Asylums; and will he cause inquiries to be made as to the possibility of adopting improved methods of treatment, especially as regards the exposure of convalescents to risk of infection?


I am informed by the managers of the Metropolitan Asylums Board that Alice Bateman, aged two and a half years, was admitted to the Eastern Hospital, Homerton, on 10th October, certified to be suffering from scarlet fever. The attack was mild, and she was placed in a ward of twenty beds reserved for scarlet fever patients. On 11th December she developed chicken-pox, which there is no doubt at all was introduced into the ward by a patient from outside who was admitted suffering from scarlet fever and also incubating chicken-pox, which shortly afterwards developed. Alice Bateman was promptly isolated, along with two other patients who were suffering from scarlet fever and chicken-pox (all three being removed from the same ward). On 22nd February Alice Bateman showed signs of diphtheria, and from that date she has been in a separation ward by herself. I am also informed that post-scarlatinal diphtheria is unfortunately not uncommon—in fact there are some grounds for stating that an attack of scarlet fever predisposes to an attack of diphtheria. Such cases of diphtheria occurring in a scarlet fever ward may be due to an unrecognised case of diphtheria or to the presence in the ward of a "carrier case." Such cases are quite frequent among school children, and it is possible that Alice Bateman was herself a "carrier case," and that the diphtheria bacilli in her throat became active after her prolonged illness. No other case of diphtheria has occurred in either of the wards in which she was treated. In reply to the second paragraph of the hon. Member's question, I am informed that it is quite uncommon to have such a sequence of illnesses in the Metropolitan Asylums Board's hospitals, and even secondary diseases are relatively uncommon, especially when one considers the frequency with which children are exposed daily to infection in schools and crowds. The ratio of the following complications of scarlet fever cases in 1913 (the latest return available) and 1933, respectively, was per 100 cases:—

1903. 1913.
Diphtheria 2.32 1.36
Chicken-pox 2.36 1.48

In reply to the third paragraph, I may say that the question of improved methods of treatment is at no time lost sight of by the managers and their advisers, and the figures given above show that the structural and other provision which has been made to reduce the risk of cross-infection to which all fever hospitals are liable has not been unsuccessful.