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Friday, June 5, 2020

‘Social distancing’ is nothing new


The 1918 influenza pandemic was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic. The Spanish flu infected 500 million people around the world, or about 27 per cent of the world population of between 1.8 and 1.9 billion.

The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest epidemics in human history.

Talk of flu epidemics is nothing new. From its earliest years of publication in the 1890s, the Yea newspaper carried talk of 300 people (location unknown), dying in one day from a form of influenza.

In August 1891, Yea’s Health Officer, Dr Lang, raised his concerns with the ‘Inspector of Nuisances’ about the danger of influenza.

“I beg to bring under your notice a fact of extreme importance as regards the health of the residents of this town.

“The matter to which I refer is the practice of depositing rubbish and garbage of all kinds indiscrimin.ately in various places.

“One notorious heap is at the bottomof Gifford-street, just at the end of the main drain leading from High street. This heap has been very recently added to by a mass of filthy material.

“Moreover, the waters of the Creek, during the late flood, reached this point, and have helped to disperse the contents of the heap, only to deposit it further on, perhaps in the immediate vicinity of some dwelling-house.

“Judging from the age and the extent of the heap, this has apparently been for a long time an unrecognsed danger. I do not doubt that there are many other accumulations of like character, but this is the one that has
particularly attracted my attention.

“I would strongly urge upon you to attend to this matter without delay, and to take steps to at once have this material removed to the depot set apart for the purpose.

“At present it causes no offence, but under the influence of the summer sun would speedily decompose and become a dangerous nuisance.

“Further,.it would be well to frame a bye-law making it coimpulsory to deposit all rubbish and garbage at the proper depot, and rigorously prosecute all offenders.

“1 notice that no steps have been taken to abate the nuisance caused by the drains mentioned in one of my previous reports (i.e., the main drain from High-street, and the one in Snodgrass-street which joins it).

“Both these drains are, even during the cold weather, highly offensive, and in a highly dangerous condition.

“If not attended to at once they may cause a widespreading and disastrous epidemic of contagious disease during the coming summer.

“At the termination of the main drain there is a stagnant stinkingpool; and the contents of the drain mix with and farther tend to pollute the heap of rubbish above mentioned.

“These items, gentlemen, demand your immediate attention, as they will become markedly worse and be a serious menace to the public health.

“The health of the town is good.”