Influenza epidemic – shire council acts – local cases quarantined


A SPECIAL meeting of the Frankston and Hastings Shire Council was held on Tuesday night last, when there were present Crs. Murray (president), J. Unthank, Oates, Mason, Hoare and Hoban.

The president explained that the Council had been called together to consider the best means to adopt to combat the influenza epidemic. 

The real article was not in the district yet, and he hoped it would not come. Still, they must be prepared for it, and have everything in readiness in the event of a serious outbreak.

The secretary (Mr. John E. Jones) read a communication from the Public Health Department asking what action had been taken by the Council to fight the disease.

A reply had been forwarded to the effect that the local health officer, was carrying out inoculation at the various centres throughout the shire, and taking other precautions.

Cr. Mason said in sending out the notices convening the present meeting there had been very little time to.spare, and he had done the best under the: circumstances. 

It was highly necessary that the Council should take definite action in view of the seriousness of the position. 

He, in company with the local health officer (Dr. Griffeths), had the previous day made numerous visits to various houses in and around Frankston, where it was rumoured that cases of influenza existed, but nothing serious had been discovered. 

There were other cases, however, of which he had a list, and these were being treated as pneumonic influenza. 

Cr. Mason then gave details of the cases, which included several in Frankston (including three at the private hospital, and one each at Carrum and Somerville).

Dr. Griffeths, the health-officer of the shire, at the invitation of the Council, then expressed. his views concerning the position. 

He said he had inoculated at Frankston, Somerville, and Hastings, and also at Balnarring, where 50 men were employed on the Water works. 

At Frankston on Monday he had inoculated 72 persons, 24 for the second time, and not one had shown any ill effects. It was a prevalent idea, said Dr. Griffeths, that bad effects followed inoculation. Such was not the fact. 

Damage to health did not follow inoculation, and the serum was the only thing to rely on in the present outbreak. 

Every effort should be made to effect isolation in every case.of pneumonic influenza. Ally mild case might cause infection, with serious results.

No form of the disease, no matter how slight, should be regarded lightly. Inoculation would not give complete immnunity, from the disease, but if an inoculated person contracted it, the attack would be in a much milder form. 

The pneumonic phase of the disease was its great danger, for pneumonia was the captain of all acute diseases.

He had seen mild cases in this shire, and it had to be remembered that the mild develops into the serious.

The only safeguard was inoculation.

People should be prevented from congregating together in large numbers. Race meetings, theatres, picture shows, etc., should all be prohibited. 

For local requirements he considered a suitable building should be secured as an isolation hospital in case of need.

President – Is inoculation sufficient in case of contacts?

Dr. Griffeths replied: No; not in the case of contacts. Separation and isolation were most essential.

Continuing, Dr. Griffeths said he met a man the other day who said he would wait till the disease came to his district before he would get inoculated. That man, said the doctor, would look pretty foolish if he happened to be the first man to contract the complaint. 

Dr. Griffeths said he had not seen a bad case yet; but Dr. Atkinson, of Frankston, had told him that there were three in Frankston, and that they were in the private hospital. 

Dr. Griffeths then explained that he had informed Dr. Atkinson that the cases, being infectious, should not have been admitted to the private hospital, and that it would be necessary to quarantine the institution. 

He also protested to Dr. Atkinson against the practice of allowing the patients to be visited by people outside. He was told that each patient was allowed one visitor. 

Dr. Atkinson had replied that visitors were allowed to see patients in the Melbourne Hospital. 

He (Dr. Griffeths) had replied that two wrongs did not make a right, and that the practice of allowing visitors at the Frankston Hospital must be stopped.

Cr. Oates: Quite right.

Dr. Griffeths: I told Dr. Atkinson if any persons went into that hospital they would have to stay there. Tradespeople could leave their goods at the gate, but should not have contact with any person inside. 

The Council, said Dr. Griffeths, should pass a resolution for bidding access to the private hospital, except to sick people. Dr Griffeths said the Council should make immediate provision to provide accommodation for patients, and secure nurses. 

He believed there were plenty of V.D.N. women who would willingly offer their services. 

He thought the Recreation Park at Frankston would be an excellent place as a depot, and there should be plenty of tents available.

The military authorities, no doubt, would be willing to supply tents or marquees, and perhaps the Defence department would supply beds. 

In conclusion, Dr. Griffeths expressed the hope that as the result of this meeting immediate action would be taken.

President: How would you treat a mild case?

Dr. Griffeths: Quarantine it at once, and a severe penalty is provided for breaking quarantine.

Cr. Oates: If masks are worn can infection be taken through the eyes?

Dr. Griffeths: I can’t say, but should think not. The affinity of the pneumonic influenza germ is for the lungs.

Cr. J Unthank asked if the cases which had come under notice had been isolated.

Dr. Griffeths: Yes.

Cr. Hoare inquired if the butcher at Carrum, who was suffering from the complaint, had closed his establishment.

Dr Griffeths: Oh, yes; I think so.

Cr Mason said the position of the private hospital in Frankston was one demanding attention. The institution had only received its charter on the understanding that infectious cases, were not to be taken in. The cases now in the hospital had been diagnosed as pneumonic influenza in private houses, and then removed to the hospital.

Cr. Oates said it was on account of the rumours floating about that he set out to make serious inquiry, with the result that he had obtained the list of cases just read to the meeting. 

It seemed to him that unless the Council took a strong stand they would have trouble. Preventative measures might seem severe, but it was the only way to stamp out the disease. 

Dr. Atkinson, of Frankston, should be asked to give firsthand information to Dr. Griffeths (the shire’s health officer) of all cases coming under his care.

This would avoid the present unnecessary delay. The private hospital should be quarantined, as there were three serious cases there. 

He then moved that the St. Pancras Hospital, at Frankston, be brought under the quarantine regulations.

Cr. Mason seconded the resolution, which was carried unanimously.

Dr. Griffeth – If any person goes into the private hospital now, they will stop in.

Cr. Mason – Is there any way of notifying the public that the place is quarantined. 

Dr. Griffeth—Yes, By written notice on the gate or by flying the yellow flag, but the public will soon get to know. 

Cr Oates moved, that all private houses where cases of pnueumnoic influenza exist be brought under the quarantine regulations. 

Cr J. Unthank seconded He thought there were aspects of the position which were more serious to Frankston than to other parts of the shire. 


From the pages of the Mornington Standard, 8 February 1919

First published in the Mornington News – 5 February 2019


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