SUSPECTED CASE ON THE CERBERUS
VESSEL IN QUARANTINE
The Age, 14 May 1900.
The bubonic event of the past forty-eight hours is the discovery of the man with plague symptoms on board H.M.V.S. Cerberus, and the consequent placing of the entire ship’s company in quarantine. On Friday evening, Alfred Hands, a fireman, aged 36 years, came up from the stokehole complaining of pains in the right groin. He feared he had ricked himself at his work. About 10 o’clock he felt worse, vomited, had a severe headache and spoke of pains all over the body. Dr. J.C. Johnston, who was on his way with Byron, the Port Melbourne patient, to the quarantine station at Point Nepean, was luckily available, and went aboard at Commander Tickell’s request. The doctor examined Hands, and learnt that the fireman had pains in the stomach, extreme thirst, was very sleepy and had the other symptoms mentioned. Dr. Johnston took a serious view of the man’s condition, so reported the matter to Dr. Gresswell, who instructed Dr. McLean to immediately visit the Cerberus. Dr. McLean did so early on Saturday morning, and on examination found a small gland in the patient’s right groin enlarged and very tender. Hands was also seen to be in a very excited and hysterical state. The decision was soon arrived at that for safety’s sake the man must be transferred to Point Nepean, and the entire war ship put into quarantine. This dictum was soon compiled with, the man put ashore in charge of Dr. Johnston, who now joins his friend Dr. Ball, and the vessel in the afternoon steamed away to the Heads for fumigation and a holiday. Precautions, however, did not cease when Commander Tickell, Lieutenant Biddlecombe and some 50 other officers and men were made prisoners of militant sanitation. Hands was in the habit of going ashore three nights a week, and on Thursday was at his home, 132 Westgarth-street Fitzroy. Immediately, therefore, the patient had been dealt with Dr. Gresswell sent the police to this house and had it isolated. There Dr. Elkington took command, and found Mrs. Annie Hands, the wife, and three children, Mrs. Geo Martin, a relation, and, hardest of luck, Fred Jackson, a mate of Hands’s, from the Cerberus. All were placed in duranee vile; the neighbors at 126 West-garth street, Mr. Stacey and family, were inoculated, and the entire furniture and the buildings around the house fumigated with thoroughness.
No. 132 Westgarth-street is a corner house, of weatherboard, single storied, with a right of way running on one side, and a small yard at the back. Externally, “Drayton,” for that is the name of the house, looks pleasant and from a high hygienic point of view the internal conditions are said to be open to adverse comment. Hands and his family, however, have only been in occupation since 4th May, and the man himself has only slept there four nights. He previously lived at 24 Foot-street, South Melbourne, which has, with 132 Westgarth-street, been disinfected by the Board of Health officers.
Westgarth-street being close to two of the main tram lines, Hands’s house and its watchful policemen were objects of much more or less impertinent curiosity all Saturday. Public interest was also markedly shown on Sunday morning, when all the occupants were taken away, en route for the now thickly populated quarantine station. Many who observed the departure secretly made up their minds to follow the example of the Lancaster family close by, and get inoculated. The fact that Hands was at present merely under observation, and that his case had yet to be fully diagnosed, made little difference with plague-frightened enthusiasts.
The Cerberus will be kept in quarantine for about five days – longer, if Hands’s condition should develop into that of plague in bad form. It has not been thought necessary to quarantine the men at the Williamstown Naval Depot, but they are being inoculated. There is no evidence that they were recently in contact with the fireman.
The plague list now stands:–
Byron, Port Melbourne
All three are safely at Point Nepean, and on latest advices, Sunday evening, were progressing favorably. Drs. Ball and Johnston have their hands full just now, the strict observation of the 20 or more “contacts” demanding great vigilance.