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The pandemic that hit Neuquén

113 years ago, a pandemic put the life of Neuquinos in a vandemic.

An epidemic of scarlet fever shook the capital city of  Neuquén , exactly 113 years ago. The  seriousness with which the virus attacked  the commune was of such magnitude that  Abel Chanetón  (in charge of the municipal council and politician renowned in  Neuquin history )  should have request support  from the Ministry of Health (at that time, National Hygiene Department)

 Scarlet fever manifests itself in some people who have streptococcal pharyngitis. It is also known as  scarlet fever  and is characterized by a  bright red rash  that affects most of the body. While  today this disease can be quickly cured  with antibiotics such as amoxicillin  , in the early twentieth century treatment was complicated  and prevention was also not easy to achieve. Boys and girls are the ones who can suffer the disease worst.

The main reason why scarlet fever spread in Neuquins that February was negligent conditions in homes . Although Neuquén was a young municipality in 1908, the poor prosperity of those years was reflected in a poor labour market.   Many people lived crowded and in unsanitary conditions.  

The newspaper  La Prensa 

Doctor  Pelagatti , a  doctor of the governorate in those years, was the one who warned Chaneton of the seriousness of the matter. Once learned, the mayor immediately came to write a telegram requesting a disinfection stove or sprayer and 12 bottles of antidiphtheria serum from 1500 to 2000 units. The recipient was  Carlos Malbrán, leading bacteriologist from our country  and renowned public figure, who in turn was in charge of the National Hygiene Department. While awaiting a response from Buenos Aires,  Chanetón chose to dictate quarantine  in places with scarlet fever; he urged the entire population to  clean every corner of their homes and to go out to the streets as little  and indispensable.

After the four days,  Malbrán informed the Commune that the next day the Espindola health guard would leave for Neuquén, to help establish the necessary disinfection, bringing the elements for that purpose to the capital of the Neuquino Territory.

However, before the arrival of the sanitary guard,  Malbrán placed a request to Chaneton.   This stated that  I acknowledge receipt of the first shipment  or  , for the purpose of distorting the newspaper “La Prensa”  . The ever-controversial newspaper had published some information about its correspondent in Neuquén in which, as is clear from the telegraphic texts,  he raised doubt about the inaction of the said Department . Such inaction was non-existent, as the  requested shipment was on the way.  

Luckily for Neuquins , the  pandemic  was controlled in a matter of weeks.   The actions taken were diverse and swift, as was the extraordinary expenses incurred by the commune in medicines and disinfections. In addition,  it had to rent a property that was converted into a lazareto  until the end of the epidemic, a task that was carried out by Dr. Julio Pelagatti.

In addition, we leave you to yapa the letter that Dr. Pelagatti (doctor of the governorate at that time) wrote to warn of the severity of the pandemic.

He wrote on 10 February 1908 as follows:

 For two days, several cases of scarlet fever have reappeared, which have already been felt in this population, endemic. These are in the houses of... and of... in whose properties there are exagglomerations of tenants. I had the opportunity to find out that some of those pieces live six people, without there being the space necessary to host them. Also very notable is the state of development of that and many other homes where an infect-contagious condition, when it has penetrated, feels its real well-rooted. It is my opinion that the most rigorous measures of prophylaxis should be taken in these very dangerous cases stalking the entire population. It is also necessary to prevent the spread of the morbid, which, although they are isolated cases, threatens to spread more and this can be achieved by destining one of the most remote houses in the population, to isolate and aslict those who are sick and those who fall prey to the disease. In addition, it is necessary to make a neat disinfection of the houses from which the sick are taken out, which will need to be isolated. All these improvements in public health can also be corrected with the sanitization of the funds of houses where there are accumulated waste from human food and quadrupeds.  

 It would also be necessary for a disinfection stove to be acquired and even complete disinfection by fire of those ranches that constitute the permanent focus of the infection, without the extreme measures of which the fearsome enemy may not be able to evict.  

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