Richmond County health report of 1936

Diseases, which have all but been forgotten, were common and at times fatal 100 years ago: diphtheria, appendicitis, pneumonia, yellow jaundice, and tuberculosis were the main ones.

At one point, a county nurse traveled through the area to the schools to examine children by checking their skin, eyes, ears, tonsils, and adenoids. The nurse then sent a report home so that parents could take the steps necessary to ensure the health of their children.

The Nova Scotia Division of the Red Cross conducted a similar program for dental health care. Teeth were cleaned and examined and a report was made.

Not since the Spanish Influenza of 1918 killed 30 to 40 million people worldwide have we been so concerned about health care. The corona virus pandemic has made us realize that we are still vulnerable to disease.

What were the health concerns of our forefathers in 1936 in Richmond County? Medical Health Officer for the county, J.H. Digout, submitted the following report to Municipal Council on Friday, January 22, 1937:

“For the year 1936, in my capacity of County Medical Officer, I beg to make the following report. With reference to contagious diseases I may say, in the first place, that on no occasion have I received, as County Medical Officer, any report of contagious diseases from our physicians in the municipality. There was, however, during the year, a widespread epidemic of whooping cough, which was often complicated with influenza, causing a few deaths among young children. A mild type of influenza seemed to exist the year round in some parts of the municipality. It did not cause any deaths among the younger population, but often contributed to hasten death to older persons already suffering from chronic diseases. There were no other serious epidemics to my knowledge. I think that there is a considerable letting up in the small-pox vaccination of schoolchildren and in the re-vaccination of adults. Should an epidemic strike we would be in for a most unpleasant surprise.

“In the matter relative to tuberculosis, the number of deaths was smaller than in 1935. Active cases with open lesions and positive sputum are being regularly sought out through the efforts of the provincial health force, in cooperation with local physicians. By educating the patients capable of transmitting the disease to take proper precautions, Nurse Blanche Martell is doing much in checking the spread of the disease. Many chronic cases difficult to trace out are also responsible for the spread of tuberculosis, but in a lesser degree than the active cases with open lesions.

“Parasitic diseases and other diseases due to lack of cleanliness were in some instances evident. Cases of itch are still in existence in the county especially where agglomerations of workmen are present. A few cases of venereal diseases were observed; about in the same proportion to other years.

“The hospitalization of patients, for various diseases, who are unable to pay on account of the stress of poverty and unemployment is fast becoming a problem for the municipality.”