# 29318


[PANDEMICS] Report of a Case of Infectious Disease. (Melbourne, January 1919).

$125.00 AUD

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[Melbourne : Government printer, 1918]. Proforma document, 110 x 210 mm, headed ‘Report of Case of Infectious Disease’, with manuscript entries made by Dr. V. Reid, Richmond, dated 31 January 1919, reporting a case of Influenza in a patient named Wm. Cuttries, aged 27 years, residing at 65 Type St. Richmond, who has had symptoms for 2 days; verso with printed address panel ‘The Town Clerk [OR] Shire Secretary, Richmond [in ms.]’; the completed form was folded and mailed by the doctor to the Richmond Council, where it was endorsed ‘Entered 3/2/19’; a very good, clean example.

The so-called Spanish flu pandemic, which would eventually claim over 20 million lives worldwide, arrived in Melbourne at the very end of 1918. Victorian doctors were already obliged by law to report every case of an infectious disease when a patient presented with symptoms. However, wider measures were implemented to stop the spread of the Spanish flu:

“On 30 January 1919 the Victorian health minister issued ‘Influenza Emergency Regulations’ under the Health Act 1915. Public meetings of more than 20 people were prohibited, travel in long-distance trains was restricted, public buildings were closed and NSW closed the border with Victoria. People were encouraged to wear masks in public places. The imposition of a strict maritime quarantine in late 1918 and early 1919 helped pause the spread
in Australia. Despite these measures, Melbourne public hospital statistics for the fortnight ending mid-April tell a story of the virulence of Spanish flu and how quickly it spread in the overcrowded slums of the inner-city suburbs. Within the fortnight hospitals treated 3444 cases of influenza, with 142 deaths. The second highest cause of death was tuberculosis, with 28 deaths.” (Australian Nursing & Midwifery Association)

The form we offer here was filled in by the Richmond doctor just one day after the Victorian health minister made his announcement on 30 January, but would have been printed the previous year (perhaps even earlier), before the influenza crisis arose. Shortly after the 1 February 1919 a new type of Report of Case of Infectious Disease form was printed. It had a larger format, allowing for more details to be entered, and it included the word URGENT in bold type on the address panel, which had not featured on the previous form.

It is worthy of note that at the height of the Spanish flu pandemic in Melbourne, the mortality rate from tuberculosis – which at this time was consistently one of the leading causes of death in Australia and New Zealand – was still a very significant figure, even when compared to the huge number of influenza victims. Today, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it tends to be an overlooked fact in First World countries that tuberculosis has been, and continues to be, a far more devastating infectious disease in Third World countries than the coronavirus: in 2019 alone (according to the World Health Organization) 1.5 million people died from TB worldwide, out of the 10 million people who contracted the disease. This makes it approximately five times as deadly as COVID-19 – in the Third World.