• Sunday, April 14, 2024


Five Victorian diseases that are making a comeback

The ‘Victorian’ or ‘Dickensian’ diseases that are remarkedly on the rise include scarlet fever and malnutrition.

A male person having gout related pain (iStock)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

According to data obtained from the NHS, Victorian-era diseases are making a comeback, reports the Mirror.

The ‘Victorian’ or ‘Dickensian’ diseases that are remarkedly on the rise include scarlet fever and malnutrition.

Over the past few months, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has reportedly revealed that scarlet fever and syphilis are also on the rise.

Some of the diseases that were the major cause of mortality during the reign of Queen Victoria seem to be making an appearance again and medics have reportedly recorded patients being admitted with diseases such as tuberculosis, malnutrition, gout, diphtheria, and typhoid.

UKHSA has reportedly said that “Dickensian” diseases were never really eradicated but just became less prominent and conspicuous.

The substantial developments and advances made over the last 150 years have been responsible for containing and treating the spread of disease – developments such as education, wholesome food, clean water, and of course the arrival of antibiotics and vaccinations, are some of the progressions.

However, this does not mean that there are no re-emergences or reintroductions of the disease amongst the population.

In fact, some of the prior Victorian-era diseases have been making appearances following the end of the pandemic-induced lockdowns.

Here are five of the Victorian-era diseases that are affecting patients of the 21st century.

1. Scarlet fever

A pandemic of scarlet fever struck the world between 1820 and 1880. It reportedly returned yearly to urban areas and killed 20,000 people in the UK in 1840.

But while it is not even close to those levels, GPs in the UK have reported increased cases of the disease.

A total of 3,488 cases of this disease were identified in the UK by the NHS between September 2021 and March 2022.

The disease is one of winter’s childhood illnesses and commonly affects children under the age of 10, however, the bacterial infection can affect people of all ages.

The symptoms of scarlet fever are like that of flu, including headache, high temperature, sore throat, rash, and so on.

The illness is rarely serious nowadays but the treatment usually includes a 10-day course of antibiotics.

A child health expert at Bupa Health Clinics, Dr Naveen Puri, has advised that infected individuals should not share clothes, bath towels, bed sheets or cutlery with others to contain the spread.

2. Gout

According to the NHS, gout is a type of arthritis that causes extreme pain and if not treated immediately it can cause lasting damage to the joints.

The number of people affected by gout and being treated for the disease has gone up by 20% in the last three years – around 1.5 million Brits are believed to be affected by this disease.

Additionally, it is estimated that 250,000 people have been admitted with gout during 2021-22.

The main symptoms of gout include sudden severe pain in the joints (usually in the big toes, wrists, hands, elbows, elbows, or knees).

Some of the other symptoms include swollen joints, hot skin, and redness over the joint that is affected.

A GP and trustee of the UK Gout Society, Dr Alastair Dickson, reportedly said, “There’s a lack of awareness that it is inherently a genetic disease.”

3. Syphilis

This sexually transmitted disease was extremely difficult to cure in the Victorian era and was therefore feared due to its devastating effects.

The cases of syphilis massively reduced in the past 100-plus years due to antibiotics, screening of pregnant women, and better contraception methods.

However, the UKHSA has revealed that there was a “marked” increase in the number of cases of this disease in 2021 with 7,506 diagnoses of infectious syphilis reported – an 8.4% increase from 2020.

If not treated, syphilis can reportedly lead to life-threatening problems but can be treated with antibiotics.

The NHS has warned that any sexually active person is at potential risk of contracting the bacterial infection.

4. Malnutrition

A total of 10,282 cases of malnutrition have been diagnosed by the NHS in the 12 months up to March 2022.

Additionally, health and education officials have reported a rise in the number of those children who rely on having the main meal of the day at school.

In September, The Food Foundation charity reported that four million children were living in homes with inadequate access to food.

A GP in south London, Martin Godfrey who signed the call for extending the free school meals provision reportedly said that he increasingly saw children who are malnourished.

“We are seeing thin, pale children who lack the energy of a normal child,” he said.

He adds, “There isn’t much clinically we can do to help other than signpost parents to people and places that can. We all need to do more right now.”

5. Vitamin D deficiency

Factory and power station smog clouded the sun over industrial 19th-century British cities preventing Victorians from getting vitamin D in healthy doses.

120 years later, the lifestyle of Britons living indoors has led to vitamin D deficiency rates rising among people in the UK.

There were 174,933 cases of vitamin D deficiency diagnosed in England in the 12 months up to March 2022.

In 2021/22, the UK recorded 423 cases of rickets which is another disease prominent in the Victorian era.

According to the NHS, vitamin D helps regulate the amount of phosphate and calcium in the body, the nutrients that are needed to keep teeth, bones, and muscles healthy.


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