‹‹‹ prev (48) Page [21]Page [21]Part II. Malaria in Bombay

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48. Bombay appears to have become more healthy, after Aungier's time.
Grose writes in 1750 as follows:-
"Whatever may be the reason the point is certain that the climate is
"no longer so fatal to the English inhabitants as it used to be, and is
"incomparably more healthy than that of many other of our settlements.
"The most common disorders are fever, bloody fluxes, cutaneous eruptions
"and a sort of tetter called ringworms."
And he points out that, one reason assigned for the island having grown
healthier, was the lessening of the waters, by a breach of the sea being
banked off.
But he adds-
"This however does not seem to me a satisfactory reason. There is
"still subsisting a great body of salt-water in the inside of the breach, the
"communication of which with the sea being less free than before the
"breach was built must be in the proportion more apt to stagnate and
"breed noxious vapours. The improvement is due therefore more to
"different diet and manner of living of the Europeans and also to the
"place being provided with more skilful physicians than formerly."
49. A few years later, in 1757, a serious epidemic broke out both among
the labourers employed on the fortifications and the general population of the
City. Of the exact nature of this epidemic there is no evidence, but it is quite
possible that it may have been malaria.
It is recorded in 1774 among certain details regarding hospital administra-
tion that, "In the General Hospital during the month of January 1774 the
number of sick was 3,368, and of these cases 156 were fever." In the
Convalescent Hospital during the same month there were 2,372 sick, of whom
434 were cases of "intermitting fever."
In 1787 the Polish traveller Dr. Heve refers to a statement of Dr. Scott,
who, he says, informed him that-
"The people of Mahim often manure their plantations with
"putrified fish, which renders the air unwholesome to those that live in
"it. Not an instance is known of an European recovering of a fever if he
"has contracted it in these woods."
What this Mahim fever really was we do not know, but for many years
this part of Bombay was supposed to be intensely malarious and people still
cling to this idea at the present time.
50. The records regarding the condition of Bombay during the early part of
the 19th Century are rather contradictory. Captain Seely, who was in Bombay
in 1825, remarked that-
"The climate of Bombay is preferable to most parts of India, having
"a refreshing sea-breeze commonly called from its healthful effects the
"'Doctor'. There is now very little wood on the island, no marshes, and
"but few large pools of stagnant water. To these causes much of the
"sickness that prevails in other parts of India must be attributed and
"the salubriety of Bombay causes it to be resorted to by invalids from
"other Presidencies and the interior."
But reference to the Diary of Lady West, written about the same time
(1825-29), leads to a different impression; for this authoress frequently mentions
the extreme unhealthiness of Bombay and records a number of cases of illness
and death among her friends and acquaintances. Her house was in the Fort
and it is interesting to note the bitter complaints she makes regarding the
prevalence of mosquitoes there. Among other items she records the fact that
one of the Crown Judges, who was sent out from England to assist her husband,
was taken ill with "fever" in her house, within three weeks of his arrival in
Bombay. Apparently the Judge, his wife and her maid were all prostrated at
the same time. These facts hardly support Captain Seely's eulogy of Bombay.

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