The Fever Epidemic
Toowoomba Chronicle 5/5/77
The Fever and Ague Epidemic overtake Roma Railway Works.—
We learn that Dr. Howlin, of this town, has just returned from a visit of inspection of the employees on the Dalby and Roma extension, and that he describes their state as most miserable. Not less than 143 persons are suffering from fever and ague, a large number of whom are so prostrated that they have been unable to do a week's work for the past five weeks. Women, and even children of tender years, are equally afflicted — the dire intermittent fever has no respect for age or sex. Dr. Howlin's report will be furnished to the contractors, Messrs. Overend and Co., Messrs. Bashford and Co., and Mr. Fountain, at a meeting which they propose holding on Monday next, when we hope the suggestions he has made will be noted upon, and will have the effect of relieving these unfortunate people from, their present deplorable condition— that is if the Government will provide a certain amount of the needful help required.
The first appearance of the fever is at Caranga, about twenty-five miles from Dalby, and from there to Charley's Creek, the Baking Board, Cunumbula, and on to Fountain's Camp, the whole line passes through a permanently malarious district, and men, women, and young children, even of a few months old, are found prostrated in all directions. Dr. Howlin states that each of the 143 patients would require, for one week's treatment, a quarter of an ounce of quinine ; and as this costs from £1 to 25s. per ounce, an outlay of £40 to £50 per week would be required for that article alone. The men are perfectly destitute of means, and have not a farthing in the world to purchase medicine or obtain medical help.
Dr. Howlin states that as he was riding along he saw a man named O'Dowd sitting on a log with his head resting on bis knees. He asked him how he was. Ho replied that he was as bad as he could be, but that there were women and children in the tent worse than he was, Tho doctor entered the tent, and found the inmates in a most pitiable state. The wife of O'Dowd is within a month of her confinement, and was shivering from head to foot. Beside her was a little child in the same condition, and a little farther away was the wife of O'Dowd's brother, with an infant ten months old, and both suffering acutely from fever and ague. O'Dowd had done one week's work in the past five weeks, and the whole family were without means of any kind, and helpless to assist each other. Dr. Howlin reported this case to Mr. Overend, and told him that unless he sent immediate help to the family, death must inevitably ensue. Mr. Overend promised that immediate assistance should he rendered.
There are other eases of an equally pitiable character, and we cannot but think that, whatever may be the duties of the contractors in this emergency, the Government cannot ignore theirs. Human life is at all times sacred, and, as the sudden appearance of this epidemic on the Government works was not in any way anticipated, some measure of relief to these hapless creatures should be provided from the Treasury.
The country would not begrudge any reasonable expenses incurred in saving the lives of our fellow-creatures, who have been compelled to go to a malarious district to assist in the construction of one of our most important public works, and who have been stricken down by sickness. The good name of the colony is at stake in this matter, and the calls of humanity, apart from duty, demand that some vigorous efforts should be mode by the Government to afford relief to the men, women, and children, who are now lying helpless and emaciated on the Dalby railway works.