HC Deb 23 February 1920 vol 125 cc1305-6W
Lieut.-Colonel RAW

asked the Minister of Health whether he can make any statement as to the incidence of influenza in this country; and what preparations have been made by the Ministry of Health for dealing with an epidemic should it occur?


There has been a slight increase in the number of deaths from influenza during recent weeks and a few significant outbreaks in schools and other institutions, but otherwise there is no evidence at present of unusual prevalence of the disease in this country comparable to the definite new waves of influenza which are occurring in American cities and on the Continent.

The Ministry keep a constant watch on the occurrence of influenza at home and abroad, and have put themselves in a position to observe closely the progress of any epidemic, wherever it may occur. Information is derived from returns as to epidemics obtained from Consular Agents and from other official sources all over the world. As regards the prevalence of the disease at home, information is obtained from the weekly returns of influenza mortality in the 96 great towns issued by the Registrar-General, and from returns of cases of acute influenzalpneumonia, the notification of which is now obligatory on all medical practitioners in England and Wales. Returns of cases of influenza are also furnished voluntarily every week by a number of schools, institutions and representative industrial firms throughout the country. All data on the subject, statistical as well as scientific, come before an Influenza Committee, which is a Medical Standing Committee of the Ministry of Health, holding frequent meetings, and on which sit medical representatives of various Government Departments.

A vaccine against influenza has been prepared by the Ministry and is now being issued on demand to Medical Officers of Health for distribution free of charge among medical practitioners within their districts. Careful consideration has been given to all practicable means of protecting the country from the introduction of influenza through the ports.

The knowledge and experience accumulated during recent epidemics have been collected and issued to local authorities at various times in the last twelve months.

A Memorandum has been issued to local authorities explaining the measures (both administrative and personal) which, with our present knowledge, are deemed best calculated to prevent the spread of influenza, and to lessen mortality from the disease;.

A popular leaflet has also been issued and widely circulated through local authorities setting out the best measures of guarding against infection, together with advice to patients as to the best known means of securing a speedy return of convalescence and the avoidance of those complications which constitute the special danger of influenza.

Meanwhile, much active investigation continues by the medical officers of the Ministry into the causes of epidemics of influenza. Special enquiry is being made by them in selected districts into such questions as immunity, the effects of overcrowding, incidence according to age, and so on. In certain of these areas arrangements have been made, in consultation with the Medical Research Committee, for the co-operation of medical officers of the Ministry, Medical Officers of Health and bacteriologists, in the investigation of the origin, the spread and best means of combating the disease.