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The Long Fight Against Infectious Diseases

We recently sourced a pair of posters from the 1970's showing the fight against infectious disease in the National Health Service. The posters are from Department of Medical Illustration at St Bartholomew's Hospital of London and graphically represent the hard work to contain infectious disease.

The current pandemic and the fight to contain it is the latest in a long history of the fight against the spread of disease led by the health services. Florence Nightingale fought to improve conditions and nursing practices during wartime to prevent the spread of disease in the Crimea. As well as cleanliness, she understood the need to keep rooms well ventilated to stop the spread of air born diseases, particularly pertinent to the current pandemic.

1918 Poster in Ohio during the Influenza Pandemic

Much of the good nursing practices at that time was born from experience of what worked rather than absolute science. The battle against infectious diseases has always relied on science, practical experience, rigorous compliance with rules and dedication of health workers and other professionals through the ages. Often as our understanding of disease has changed, it has required major changes in how we live and behave and the leadership of individuals to change behaviour.

At Retrovation we have always been fascinated by historical medical and scientific antiques including those relating to the fight against infectious diseases. As these diseases are eliminated, with the passage of time these pieces become of historical rather than current interest. Typhoid, although still a problem in some developing countries, is largely now eliminated in the developed world. The English Victorian apothecary rack with Typhoid testing kit below is now just a beautifully made and interesting antique giving us a glimpse in to the past.

Victorian Apothecary Rack with Typhoid Fever Test

The current pandemic has made the fight against infectious disease far more than a point of historical interest. Along with the rest of the country we thank our NHS for their daily fight against the disease which as we write is at its worst in hospitals throughout the UK. The fascinating 1970's NHS posters have been purchased by a regular customer in St Albans who works in the NHS as a gift for a member of her team who is on the front line. We thank her for her generosity and have passed the money in full to the NHS charities together, who represent 140 charities supporting the NHS.

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