chapter  1
9 Pages

Introduction

The warlike metaphors in the above quotation epitomise and emphasise the fear which accompanied epidemics of infectious disease in nineteenthcentury Britain. The increasing importance of a sanitary environment to individuals, and isolation measures to protect Victorian society, were fundamental to the nation's health and efficiency. Those most intimately involved with the isolation of patients in hospitals were fever nurses. Fever nursing now seems a particularly quaint term, its one-time importance almost forgotten, its history inextricably bound together with fever hospitals; both evolved slowly over two centuries and yet, by the 1970s, both had virtually disappeared.2 However, this study continues beyond then, due to international concern about bioterrorism in relation to the possible wilful dissemination of the smallpox virus. It is necessary to include this issue, and how British society is coping with the challenges posed by different forms of fever, such as new viruses, drug-resistant organisms and new strains of old infectious diseases because, as William Farr observed in 1872, 'as one species recedes, another advances'.3