February 11 2022

Following my last report, I was asked to expand on the science behind hand washing. The story begins with a Hungarian obstetrician giving a lecture to the Vienna Medical Society. On the 15th May his message was very simple….. Wash your hands “

Dr Ignaz Semmelweis was the senior obstetrician at the famous Vienna General hospital called Allegemeines Krankenhaus He simply told doctors to wash their hands. He had conducted a study of the many women dying after childbirth with a horrible disease called puerperal fever. This showed that significantly lower number of deaths occurred in women who had just been attended to by midwives compared to the much higher mortality in those attended to by doctors. Dr Semmelweiss noted that the doctors were frequently attending and conducting post-mortems of women who had died from puerperal fever and then going to deliver someone else. Remember at this time Germs were not understood. In the community about 5 mothers per 1,000 died of puerperal fever whereas in the best maternity hospitals in Europe it was 20 times higher.

The only disinfectant then known was vinegar, but Semmelweiss ordered his medical staff to use a chlorinated lime solution to wash their hands. There was a dramatic drop in the death rate after this.

Unfortunately, many doctors refused to accept this view. He was not an easy man to deal with and besides he was both Jewish and Hungarian which made him unpopular with his colleagues in Vienna.

Sadly, his mental health deteriorated with his continuous persecution, and he was eventually committed to a lunatic asylum. It is suggested that he may have become infected with syphilis during an operationwhich cause his madness called GPI or General Paralysis of the insane. He was eventually murdered in the asylum having been beaten to death.

Tt was the work of Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister that took the work forward. The role of bacteria was understood and what started as a preposterous suggestion became just plain common sense.

Before my friends from Scotland jump on me I should mention another Obstetrician, Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen who had earlier published a treatise in 1795 on the epidemic of puerperal fever in which he suggested doctors spread it from one patient to another without suggesting how.

You can see how today dealing with Covid, washing and sanitising hands remains top of the to do list to help prevent the pandemic spreading.

Turning to the data, there are increasing numbers of people beginning to question the reliability of this data coming from Gov. UK. I have been suspicious of its reliability for some time. I worry if challenged about this,that the Government will just stop publishing it, saying it’s no longer required.

Just over 1 million tests were done yesterday with only 58,899 testing positive today. It has been round 60,000 for a few days now. There have been 176,000 less cases over the week with a 28.7% drop. The positive rate is now down to798.4 per 100,000 of the population. There is quite considerable variation in different parts of the UK. This is an average for the whole country.

Hospital data continues to decline slowly. There were only 12,753 in hospital on 10th February compared to 14,600 a week ago. The number on a ventilator is steady at 430.

There are still significant daily deaths reported. There were 193 recorded today. This is 398 less in this week a drop of 22.5%. It would seem that this figure may contain some people who died of another conditions but had Covid on their death certificate.

There are now 65.5% of the population who have had 3 doses of the vaccine. Many of the more vulnerable are having their 4th Jab. I was pleased to hear my hairdresser had just returned from having her 4th jab and was willing to cut my beard for me. I was very grateful.

Most of you will have noted that Prince Charles has tested positive for a second time. Many are holding their breath as he was with his mother just two days before. I did see he had been shaking hands with a lot of people at a function, against the medical advice. We have already discovered that social status is no protection from Covid.

Europe confirmed 12 million new cases last week and New Zealand had over 300 cases reported yesterday. Tonga, recently ravished by a volcanic eruption and a Tsunami had previously had only a single case but now there are 64 active cases.

Mimicking the trouble in Canada, a group of a few hundred truckers are gathering in Nice France with a view to travelling to Paris and Brussels to demonstrate for freedom. Both these cities have made prohibition orders to keep the lorries out of the city. This is beginning to sound a bit like the rent-a-mob that used to turn up at all demonstrations with the sole objective of being disruptive.

I have been researching another pandemic in Lincolnshire, namely plague which hit Lincolnshire a full 30 years before it hit London. In particular, I have been looking at the village of Alford not far from my home.

On the evening of 22nd July 1630 the Vicar of Alford, the Rev George Scortreth, was distressed. He had just buried Maria Brown. It was known the cause of her death was the plague. He recorded “Incipit pestis” the plague begins, in the Parish register. He knew what was to come.

Neighbours, friends and family knew what was to come as well. They knew the chances of avoiding the infection was slim. All they could do was isolate at home. They were nor allowed to flee for fear of spreading it. In some areas, notably Stamford in Lincolnshire, established a pest house where those infected go to. Here they inevitably died. Any who tried to flee the village could be fined £10 a huge amount in 1630, They were also disfranchised. Some who did try to run away were chased by others wielding sticks and throwing stones.

Infected homes were marked with a cross on the door. Often whole rows of cottages were so marked. If you had been in contact with someone with plague you had to carry a white walking stick whenever out of the house. Dogs Cats and pigs were ordered to be chained up or destroyed. Almost all trade came to a halt.

A very effective system to feed the villagers worked very well. Fresh food was taken to the top of nearby Miles Cross hill where supplies from farms in the Spilsby area were taken to the top of the hill and placed on what became known as the plague stone. There was a niche that was filled with vinegar. Once those bringing the food had gone, villagers came up the hill to buy their share. They put money in the vinegar like an honesty box. When the food was replaced, the money was collected.

It is interesting to note the Vicar of Alford continued to hold burial services for his parishioners rather than digging mass graves as many communities did. Many families were completely wiped out. The vicar’s daughter was one of many victims

At the end of this pandemic Alford lost 13% of its population. Many areas lost a lot more. Many went to church to pray for deliverance. You will find in the Book of Common Prayer “ From plague, pestilence and famine, good Lord deliver us”.

For now, similar prayers in today’s language may be appropriate. Many of the isolation measures of today were in use over 400 years ago. Just some reassurance, plague is extremely unlikely to be endemic again as it responds very well to antibiotics. Having said that a single case was found and treated successfully in the UK recently.

For now, we continue to feel more relaxed as things go well, medical advice is still to follow plan K. I was pleased to see that Wales still wants to follow scientific advice and is not dispensing with isolation.

It was good to have a debate after my last report. Please keep commentating and keep safe

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