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Public Health Notes

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Public Health

The plague, that first devastated Britain in 1348, continued to cause widespread death and misery for the next 300 years.

Major epidemics broke out once every 15 or 20 years

The last great outbreak of the plague in Britain took place in 1665 and is known as the Great Plague.

The death toll in London was particularly high.

Many people stressed religious cause whilst most educated people in the 17th century thought that there were rational causes.

Plague victims were buried during the night in a very well organised way as a precaution.

The centre of London was the responsibility of the council of the City of London, headed by the Lord Mayor and in 1665 they took practical steps to control the disease such as:

Examiners and searchers appointed to identify houses where the plague had struck to stop the spread of infection

An infect house should be shut up for a month and no one allowed to leave unless they go to a special plague hospital called a pest-house

Watchmen appointed to guard the houses to ensure no one escapes

Stray dogs to be killed

Food supplies provided to infected houses

Isolation hospitals for plague victims were called lazarettos.

Britain was late behind in the development of Public Health to prevent plague in relation to other European countries.

The Italians kept out of contact with rest of population until disease was cleared (quarantined)

Travellers were only allowed to enter places if they had a certificate from a doctor stating they were unaffected

Good and clothes of infected people were destroyed

Tows had a board of health to keep a check on public health

These steps were taken in Italy in 1500 whilst only in the 17th century in England therefore many Italian writers described England as a dangerous place to visit

Some council in England took public health more seriously in England such as York who requested certificates of health as early 1536.

The Great Plague of 1665 was the final epidemic in Britain of the Bubonic plague

Some people believe the Great fire 1666 that destroyed much of London was the reason the Plague never returned although the mostly infected areas were the London suburbs which were mostly unaffected by the Great Fire

Historian Paul Slack believes the reason is because the laws in neighbouring countries at ports became much stricter preventing the spread of the plague providing minimal credit to the British government.

As towns became bigger during the medieval period, public health provision became a bigger problem too.



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