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"The cholera at Albion Terrace"

London Medical Gazette
(21 September 1849)


The cholera at Albion Terrace.

Sir,--If you will allow me to make a few brief remarks on the statements respecting the cholera at Albion Terrace, Wandsworth Road, contained in a letter which you have quoted in one of your leading articles, in the last No., I shall be much obliged, both on account of the great medical importance of the occurrences to which these statements relate, and because they contradict, in some points, the particulars which I collected with great pains and trouble, and which you honoured me by quoting in the review at another page. If the whole of the report by Mr. Grant, the Surveyor, had been published, instead of the very brief and scarcely correct abstract, you would have perceived that his knowledge of the circumstances was of a much more exact and comprehensive nature than that of the "member of a family long resident upon the terrace," who is himself evidently not aware of the careful manner in which the subject has been investigated.

To save space, I will merely give the replies, without copying the letter.

1. The common supply of water to all the houses was contaminated with the contents of the drains and cesspools, and therefore the water could not be unaffected in any of the houses, although it might appear to be so.

2. The inhabitants escaped with their lives out of seven of the seventeen houses, but not without cholera or choleraic diarrhœa as regards several of the seven, and, indeed, I was informed by Mr. Mimpriss, surgeon, who lives opposite, that scarcely a house was unaffected, but one or two that were empty, or nearly so. With respect to the water being used without intermission in some of [504/505] the houses, it must be remarked that soon after the second disturbance of the water, to be mentioned immediately, the surviving inhabitants began to leave the terrace, and in a short time the houses were all closed.

3. Avoiding the water whilst it was turbid might not prevent the mischief, especially according to the view I take of it.

4. The communication between the drains and the water pipes continued open, and a week after the first bursting of the drain it burst in a second thunderstorm, overflowing again the lower premises of the houses 8 and 9. This was on August 2d. A gardener employed to clear away the debris on both occasions, referred to his book for the dates when I called on him. He was then ill, and said that he was recovering from an attack of cholera, which came on after the second job at the terrace. Between the first bursting of the drains on July 26th, and that on August 2nd, there bad been three cases of cholera, one of which had already terminated fatally, and a case of choleraic diarrhœa. On the morning after the second storm three or four persons were attacked, and the attacks continued numerous for three or four days.

5. The greater part of the attacks did not occur on any one day, and therefore could not be within a few hours of the removal of the rubbish. I have not been able to ascertain the exact day on which the rubbish was removed, as, not thinking that a material point, I did not inquire at an early period. Dr. Milroy, in his report to the General Board of Health, stated that the removal of it took place on the 30th or 31st July, about which time only one or two attacks took place; but a gentleman, on whom I called to-day, living in the house adjoining that from which it was removed, thinks it was on August 2nd, and the morning after this there were three or four persons attacked. There are several houses in the Wandsworth Road which remained free from cholera, although they are nearer to No. 13, from which the offensive rubbish was removed, than several of those in which the disease raged so fearfully,--for instance, than Nos. 1 to 4 inclusive in Albion Terrace,--but the regurgitation of the contents of the drains into the water on August 2nd, at a time when these drains contained cholera evacuations, affected the water of all these seventeen houses, and of these exclusively.

I shall not at present make any remarks on the way in which the water might cause the spread of the cholera in this row of houses, but intend shortly to lay before the readers of the Medical Gazette, with your permission, a variety of details, collected from different parts of the country which show the connection between tainted water and the extension of cholera, and also the great freedom from cholera, both now and in 1832, enjoyed by certain large towns--as Birmingham, Bath, and Cheltenham, which have a plentiful supply of water that is totally unmixed with the contents of sewers.--I remain, sir,

Your obedient servant,

John Snow

Frith Street, Soho,

Sept 15, 1849.

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