Mass Killers of the 19th Century

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Mass Killers of the 19th Century

At the beginning of the 19th century a population census was performed

and later, in 1837, it became law that all births and deaths were

registered. "Medical officers of health" kept the records and each

local administration employed one. They forwarded their findings to

the government each year. This meant that every time a person died we

would be able to learn key information about their death; cause, age

of victim and gender. This is great for historians because it allows

us to see exactly what was happening at the time, for example, if a

certain disease was a greater killer then another.

Cholera and Influenza were most likely the biggest killers of the 19th

century, with 3 major cholera epidemics (in 1832, 1848 and 1866) and

regular flu epidemics. Cholera affected all ages and was contracted

from contaminated water. Influenza affected all ages, especially the

weak, and spread through the tiny droplets of moisture in the nose

produced from sneezing or coughing.

Tuberculosis was one of the worst diseases, it infected when the

bacteria spread in the moisture produced when coughing, and affected

all ages. TB affected 15% of the population in the 19th century.

Typhoid was another disease that attacked all ages; it was introduced

into people when they came into contact with excreta (urine, faeces,

and sweat) from a human.

Smallpox had been a major killer of all ages but by 1850 it was

gradually being eliminated through vaccination. This shows the work of

an INDIVIDUAL, Edward Jenner who created the smallpox vaccine, because

he was the success story of eradicating smallpox. In 1840 the vaccine

was made free for infants and compulsory in 1853. Measles was

attacking children, some overcame the disease but often it could

develop into a more serious problem, like pneumonia, severe diarrhoea

or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

Lung infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia were common; they

attacked peopled weakened by other infections. People became so

vulnerable to these diseases because they were poor, uneducated about
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