Poverty and Public Health

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  • Created by: Ellen
  • Created on: 11-05-13 09:30

Poverty and Public Health 

Disease and Public Health 

Why was the urban population vulnerable to epidemic diseases in the first half of the 19th Century? 

Epidemic: A disease or condition that affects a large number of people at the same time. That spreads rapidly through a segment of a population, such as everyone in the same geographic area, age group or gender.


Endemic: The expected or "normal" incidence of disease or a condition that's transmitted at the usual expected rate. An indigenous (native) disease caused by conditions that are constantly present within a community.

With particularly water born diseases, there was no class that was immune to them, it was unavoidable. 

- mass population, crowding --> easily spread 

- lack of hygiene and awareness  

- lack of practical sewage systems 

- no rubbish collection 

- high death rates

- poor quality buildings 

- lack of efficient clothing 


How bad was cholera? 

filthy overcrowded conditions led to the rapid spread of Cholera. 

Contact with human excrement and flies which had also been in contract with it was inevitable 

Worst source was contaminated water

Cholera attacked suddenly and victims could even die in hours from violent pain or diarrhoea 


Cholera, travelling fast from Asia, hit Britain in four massive epidemics:

• 1831–2 resulting in 32,000 deaths 

• 1848–9 resulting in 62,000 deaths

• 1853–4 resulting in 20,000 deaths 

• 1866–7 resulting in 14,000 deaths.

The cholera epidemics, more than endemic diseases like typhoid and tuberculosis, had a profound effect upon the public and the legislators that was out of all proportion to their statistical importance. This was for two main reasons:

  • the high percentage of fatalities (40–60 per cent) among those contracting the disease 
  • the speed with which cholera could strike. 


how did disease spread? why? 

- mass population that was ever growing was not dealt with. housing was only ever established quickly and cheaply for factory workers which meant it was poorly built and extremely cramped. There was no running water or drains or any system for clearing away waste. 

- human, animal and vegetable waste was thrown together in the street. 

- waste was occasionally removed and put into the rivers which were also used for drinking water. polluted water supplies caused many (especially infants) to die from diarrhoea and typhoid. 

- whole families often shared the same room and even the same bed. sharing beds encouraged the spread of body live which led to typhus which killed many people. 

- these epidemics were tied together with periods of economic depression and high unemployment. This meant that most people could not afford food, making them weak. They were also unable to pay to       see a doctor and obtain medicine. 

- cholera was the biggest killer of the 19th century. it struck suddenly and killed quickly and also spread at an alarming rate. It was also easily spread to the middle and upper classes unlike other epidemics around at the time. 




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