Victorian-era diseases like scarlet fever are making a comeback in England

Guess who’s back?
Guess who’s back?
Image: Wellcome Library, London
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Victorian-era diseases, such as gout and malnutrition, have dramatically risen in England in the past five years.

Gout, more commonly known as the “disease of kings,” is a type of arthritis where crystals of sodium urate form inside and around joints. Hospital admissions for the painful and potentially disabling medical condition have increased by 61% in five years, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

While gout is often associated with excess drinking and eating, health professionals suggest it’s the increasing prevalence of junk food and obesity that is to blame for the resurgence of a disease once more associated with the time of Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. The report notes that the increase could also be down to an aging population, as age is a well-known risk factor.

At the same time, malnutrition has also shot up nationally. The number of hospital admissions for primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition has increased by 51% in the last five years. In the last year, the number of admissions for malnutrition was greatest for men aged between 60-69, followed by women aged 50-59.

While the report doesn’t give a reason as to why, health campaigners blame rising food poverty as Britain goes through spending cuts. A few hospitals in England will now start offering food parcels to to patients, including Tameside hospital in Greater Manchester, which will open a permanent food bank collection center in the hospital.

Patients admitted with scarlet fever doubled from 466 cases in 2011 to 1,099 in 2015. While diphtheria and cholera also increased, these numbers still remained low. Though hospital admissions for measles and whooping cough spiked in 2013, cases have gradually decreased in the last two years. The report doesn’t highlight why. Cases of typhoid have been gradually decreasing in the last five years.

The report notes that while these diseases were devastating during the 19th and early 20th centuries, modern medicine means cases are mild and easily treatable.