Haffkine serum against cholera and plague

Professor Waldemar Haffkine’s serum, although rejected by the medical establishment in his home country of Russia, nevertheless saw great success in India when he moved there in the late 19th century to tackle the severe challenges of successive epidemics on the subcontinent.

A contemporary article, authored by William T Fee, British Consul in India, describes the Haffkine serum as follows: “In vaccination for smallpox a living germ is dealt with, whereas in plague inoculation dead seed only are injected” (Fee, 1899, p. 2047).


Mutton fish: abalones

The dispossession of Indigenous Australians in the economic history of sustainable mutton fish (abalones) harvesting tells a twofold tale of colonisation by both the British and the Chinese settlers. In this aspect, Chinese immigration was, as far as Indigenous Australians were concerned, not much different in character from the British invasion in 1788 in the way it destroyed their traditional livelihood and disconnected them from the maritime environment of mutton fish harvesting. Both British and Chinese settlements were uninvited events in Australian history which saw the Aboriginals become displaced people in their own land.



Cruse, Beryl et al. Mutton Fish.

Exclusion: leprosy and mental illness

Although unrelated, social marginalisation in liminal zones of physical isolation was applied to sufferers of leprosy and mental health alike in the political design of exclusion during the late 19th century in Australia. An example of this can be found in the history of public health measures on the Moreton Bay islands near Brisbane in Queensland.

Epidemics today


Cholera in Yemen. – Epidemics are sometimes spread during political crisis and armed conflict, such as in the current case of Yemen, where the anti-government Houthi rebels, allegedly with the backing of Iran, are fighting a war with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which is supported by the US. Already 50,000 children are believed to have died in 2017 from disease and starvation, while 900,000 Yemenis are infected with cholera.

Described by Oxfam as the worst cholera epidemic on record, WHO, according to its own report, has nevertheless been able to treat 700,000 people for suspected cholera, with over 99% of suspected cases surviving, in a situation where an estimated 14.8 million people lack access to basic health care.



McKernan, Bethan. Yemen cholera outbreak set to be the worst on record. Independent, 29 September 2017. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/yemen-cholera-outbreak-worst-on-record-health-middle-east-a7973726.html.

Nichols, Michelle. Yemen children are dying at a rate of 130 a day while Saudi-led blockade continues. Sydney Morning Herald, 18 November 2017. http://www.smh.com.au/world/yemen-children-are-dying-at-a-rate-of-130-a-day-while-saudiled-blockade-continues-20171118-gzo21m.html.

WHO, Outbreak update – cholera in Yemen, 26 October 2017. http://www.emro.who.int/surveillance-forecasting-response/outbreaks/outbreak-update-cholera-in-yemen-26-october-2017.html.

WHO, WHO’s Response to Cholera in Yemen, 27 April-20 September 2017. http://www.emro.who.int/pdf/yem/yemeninfocus/situation-reports.pdf.

WHO, Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2017. http://www.who.int/emergencies/response-plans/2017/yemen/en/.

Chinese community reference to Chinese inscriptions at North Head Quarantine Station


Personal circumstances have prevented me from submitting a full draft of a journal article that I have been working on for quite some time. One aspect of it will be posted here due to its significant Asian Australian cultural significance. It relates to an experience, written in Chinese, that a maritime passenger of Chinese background had in relation to the Chinese inscriptions at the North Head Quarantine Station when he was quarantined there in the 1920s.

Weisheng – hygiene in China

The equivalent to Cumpston in China was Wu Lien-teh, the Cambridge-trained Malaysian Chinese doctor who gained the trust of Chinese authorities when he used modern quarantine methods to successfully curb the spread of the highly deadly pneumonic plague that originated in Manchuria in 1910-1911. In 1930 Wu was appointed the first director of the National Quarantine Service, headquartered in Shanghai.

In January 1917 The Survey published an article by Wu on the history of weisheng – the Chinese term for hygiene or sanitation – in China. While Wu admits that Chinese urban planning traditionally did not have a good understanding of the importance of a drainage system for public health, he nevertheless argues that the Chinese always have, as a matter of cultural self-understanding, emphasised the importance of health in their everyday lives.