News

Times past when a town was gripped by typhoid

EARLY WORKS: Following an outbreak of typhoid in Lismore in 1892 and the plague in 1905, contractors were hired and began installing the town’s first sewerage works. By 1907, 250 houses were connected to the sewerage system which drained to a septic tank system in Dawson St near the present day caravan park.
EARLY WORKS: Following an outbreak of typhoid in Lismore in 1892 and the plague in 1905, contractors were hired and began installing the town’s first sewerage works. By 1907, 250 houses were connected to the sewerage system which drained to a septic tank system in Dawson St near the present day caravan park.

NO ONE alive today could give testament to the epidemic that broke out in Lismore more than a century ago.

In 1892 a typhoid epidemic infected 47 residents and killed five. Almost half of the patients were under 15 years old.

It was during a time of rapid commercial expansion and population growth. In the 30 years to Federation, Lismore's population grew from a mere 93 people in 1871 to whopping 4542 by 1901.

Excrement lined the river banks that supplied drinking water to the town and raw sewage spilled into the streets from defective drains.

Of the 520 houses in the town, 170 were supplied by river water. Cesspits had been abolished five years ago and replaced with nightsoil contractors.

Life was more brutal in those days, and death was less discreet.

So when a railroad worker died of an unidentified illness in November 1891, little credence was given.

Dr Rees, one of the town's five doctors, examined the patient who had continued at work for several days while ill before developing severe symptoms. He died two days later.

The next suspected typhoid case occurred on November 25, when a man who worked in town fell ill at Dean's Hotel in South Lismore. The third case was another railway worker on December 7 and the fourth was a local staying at Dean's Hotel.

On January 6, 1892, an epidemic was declared.

The state's chief medical inspector, Dr Ashburn Thompson, was called in to investigate the outbreak.

In his report published in The Northern Star on March 23, 1892, Dr Thompson said he found the town's cleanliness "unsatisfactory" but not more so than was typical in similar towns.

"There were collections of garbage on several premises," he wrote.

"In three cases the gutters were extremely foul, slop-waters issuing in quantity from Gollan's hotel and Deane's hotel, and from several premises into Brown's lane on the river bank north of the bridge.

"The night-soil service has until lately been very ill done, but is now better or well done."

About 500 railway workers camped on the banks of the Lismore River, using it to drink and bathe. Without latrines, the workers defecated on the river banks, leading to widespread diarrhoea.

Dr Thompson ruled out river water as the cause of the outbreak because homes

using rainwater and boiled

water had similar infection rates. Typhoid-carrying milk was also ruled out, because few who drank it got sick.

The source was identified as an excreta dumping ground on the north side of town.

"If now persons suffering from typhoid should have deposited infectious excreta on that area… these would dry in the heat, would break up into small fragments, and would be carried up on the air to pollute food materials and be swallowed, or to pollute that air itself and be inhaled, mainly or entirely by those living in the immediate neighbourhood," Dr Thompson wrote.

"The railway camps at Lismore and along the line were allowed to be established without any regulation whatsoever, and here, as in so many other places, the easily avoidable result has been seen in yet another preventable and entirely unnecessary outbreak of typhoid fever."

Topics:  history



Kids as young as 9 are becoming drug addicts

PRESSURE: A group of teenagers in the South Burnett are turning to anabolic steroids to achieve their beach body.

Photo Jordan Philp / South Burnett Times

Long term policy needed to break cycle of addiction

Assange speaks out: 'I want people to know the truth'

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Former Northern Rivers local's statement after years of detention

Going organic: $4m university research centre announced

Southern Cross university and NSW Dept Primary Industries celebrate their coming together to create the Centre for Organics Research at the Lismore campus. L-R Prof Graham King, Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Shoemaker, Dr Phil Wright, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Prof Geraldine Mackenzie, Chancellor Nick Burton Taylor AM, Hon Thomas George MP and Lorraine Gordon.

Shedding its hippy roots, organic food goes under the microscope

Local Partners

Brad Pitt bids to keep custody battle private

Brad Pitt will go to court to keep his custody battle private

Sia has split from her husband

Sia has split from her husband Erik Anders Lang.

Amy Schumer thanks Barbie trolls for hateful comments

Amy Schumer is in the lead role for the new Barbie movie

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing for destroyed sex life

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing her former manager

Festival sale will 'ruin' Byron Bay: LETTER

The Falls Festival at North Byron Parklands.

"Byron will be ruined and ratepayers will carry the costs"

Azealia Banks' battery case against Russell Crowe dropped

Russell Crowe will not be charged with battery

INSIDE STORY: The highlights of your $150 million CBD

GRAND PLAN: The highlights of the Ipswich CBD redevelopment and where they will be located.

Work on city heart's radical transformation to begin next year

VOTE IN OUR POLL: Sand mine opponents face serious dilemma

Public meeting for the proposed sand mine at Maroochydore last week.

Coast MP calls on Minister to stop KRA proposal with stroke of a pen

Developer's grand new multi-million dollar estate

NEW ESTATE: This is the only plan revealed by the property developer's new Billabongs Estate in Agnes Water.

DEVELOPER given the go ahead for a massive estate with 149 homes.

Banks reclaim Gladstone homes as job losses bite

LONG FALL: Property experts Heron Todd say, based on key market indicators, Gladstone is still travelling to the bottom of the market, with property prices set to get cheaper.

Property valuers say Gladstone housing market hasn't hit the bottom

The million dollar property to test Mackay's market

This Victoria St building will go to auction Tuesday and investors will be watching closely to see how much it sells for.

'High profile architect designed CBD asset' goes to auction

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!