Typhus epidemic – 1844

 

The typhus epidemic of 1844

 

Typhus is an infectious disease transmitted by the human body louse: the infecting organism, Rickettsia prowazekii, is ingested by the lice in infected human blood and excreted in their feces. The infected faeces in turn transmit the disease to man when they make contact with broken human skin, usually when louse bites are scratched. However, the rickettsiae may survive for months in the dust of dried louse faeces, and in this state infect through the eye or nose.

 

In 1844 there was a world-wide typhus epidemic, with millions dying. In this country the large industrial towns were the hardest hit, primarily due to very poor housing conditions and diet. It was generally the situation that rural areas fared better as housing was less dense. However, once the disease came into a community the impact was severe.

 

The Oddington parish register shows that typhus hit the village in September 1844. The following entries for burials all record the deaths as being from typhus:-

20 September – John Gomm, age 75

24 September – Rebekah Franklin, age 2

28 September – John Franklin, age 4

19 October – Mark Edgington – age 17

30 October – William Gomm, age 78

31 October – William Franklin, age 58

11 December – Elizabeth Franklin, age 38

16 December – Joseph Watson, age 38.

 

All of these people were from poor families, living in the cottages owned by the estate.

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