15 APRIL 1876, Page 14


SIR,—In your paper for the 8th of the present month (p. 463), you draw attention to the early mortality of the new-ilorn, infants in the outlying island of St. Kilda:

" On the fourth, fifth, or sixth night after their birth many of them give up sucking; on the seventh their gums are so clenched together that it is impossible to get anything down their throats. Soon after this symptom appears, they are seized with convulsive fits, and after struggling against excessive torments till their little strength is exhausted, die, generally on the eighth day. This mysterious illness still prevails, and if the cause is not speedily discovered, this interesting community will soon become extinct."

The disease is Infantile Lock-jaw (Trismus neonatorum), and is remediable. In one outlying district besides St. Kilda it is endemic, but there the mortality is abated, and by an ridequkte application of simple hygienic means may be abolished, if it is not so already. This second seat of the disease is the Westmanna Islands, which bear much the same relation to Iceland as St. Kilda does to Harris, lying off the north-western extremity of that island, and just within the Arctic circle. The conditions are the same as in St. Kilda, and (I believe) the mortality greater. About thirty years ago, Dr. Schleissner was sent to Iceland by the Danish Government, to report on the sanitary condition of that distant and neglected dependency. The cause he traced to the want of wood and coal as fuel, instead of which the poverty- stricken natives used some turf containing an inordinate proportion of the bones of birds and fishes, along with the dried, fatty matter of their flesh and feathers. The stench of this in un- ventilated huts made the air all but irrespirable. I have reason to believe that since this great want has been to some extent remedied, the endemic has been, to say the least, greatly abated.— I am, Sir, &c., Putney, April 11. R. G. LATHAM, M.D.