Official figures have shown that diseases which were prevalent during the Victorian era are coming back to haunt us.
Statistics from the NHS indicate that the number of gout and scarlet fever cases have doubled within a five-year period. There has also been an increase in other illnesses, such as whooping cough, malnutrition, cholera and scurvy.
During 2013/14, in excess of 86000 hospital admissions were related to patients diagnosed with gout. This is an increase of 78% in five years and 16% on the previous year. This painful condition is linked to an over-indulgence in alcohol and rich foods. It was linked to wealthy historical figures and was more common in males and those aged over 60.
Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) indicated that there was a 71% increase in hospital admissions related to malnutrition. The figures increased from 3900 admissions during 2009/10 to 6690 during 2013/14.
The number of hospital admissions for scarlet fever doubled from 403 to 845. The number of hospital patients with scurvy increased from 72 cases during 2009/10 to 94 during 2013/14.
The statistics indicate a steep increase in cholera cases, which is a water-borne disease that was prevalent during the 19th century. Overall numbers of this disease remain low, with 4 during 2009/10 and 22 during 2013/14.
Experts have attributed the increased gout cases to the increase in obesity levels and an increase in excessive drinking. The most common symptom of the disease is a severe, sudden pain in the joints, with redness and swelling.
The President of the Faculty of Public Health, Professor John Ashton, said that the increase in gout cases may be due to an aging population, along with an increase in obesity and higher alcohol consumption. He said that cholera is normally imported from elsewhere in the world and should be a reminder of the health global dependency and transferral of diseases from country to country.
He added that UK doctors require more training to allow them to be able to identify unfamiliar diseases.
Public Health England’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, Dr Theresa Lamagni, stated that the total number of scarlet fever cases has already reached 12580. This is the highest incidence of the disease since 1970.
She said that the numbers have declined sharply since April which is a normal seasonal decline, but it was still high compared to normal figures for the time of year.
During the five-year period which was examined, measles increased from 160 to 205 cases. There was a small increase from 285 to 289 for whooping cough over the five-year period.
Officials have stated that measles cases were declining after a ‘catch-up programme’ for children to receive the MMR jab, and whooping cough cases were declining because of a pregnancy vaccination programme.
The malnutrition figures come after a bout of scandals regarding elderly care. Charities have issued warnings that many patients are found to be malnourished after they are admitted to hospitals from care homes and their own homes.
The Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter, said that the increase in malnutrition cases may be due to patients obtaining better diagnoses and the detection by healthcare workers of those who are at risk.
The Chairman of the HSCIC, Kingsley Manning, found it fascinating to review the current statistics for diseases which were common in the 1800s and early 1900s. He said that we are extremely fortunate that these diseases are no longer as widespread, although figures indicate that hospital admissions for patients suffering with gout are increasing.
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