Spotted Fever in Blantyre, 1907

In February 1907, a somewhat uneasy feeling began to manifest in Blantyre when it became known that two cases of cerebro-spinal meningitis or “spotted fever” had claimed the lives of two Blantyre residents.

In one case, that of a boy, aged 9 from Chamber’s Buildings on Glasgow Road, he was taken to the hospital in Blantyre but died shortly after. The other case had been a stout, young, otherwise healthy man

Spotted fever was then one of the most severe of all infectious diseases. Attacks ranged from mild ambulatory forms to rapidly terminating fatal attacks. Humans were accidental hosts. Humans contract the disease by being bitten by an in­fected tick. A distinct rash usually appears on the third day of the disease. The early rash may resemble the slight mottling seen in measles. The rash appears first on the ankles and wrists, and spreads to the legs, arms, and chest.

In 1907, this was particularly worrying. At the same time as the Blantyre cases, over 130 cases had been reported in Glasgow, and even more in Belfast, with a splattering of cases in other small towns in Scotland. It was considered an epidemic and people were afraid. Modern antibiotics and a better understanding of transmission has helped ensure cases are now reduced.

Photos: For Illustration only

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