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April 1972


Author Affiliations

Oxford, England
From Virology Laboratory, Department of Pathology, the Gibson Laboratories, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, England.

Am J Dis Child. 1972;123(4):332-335. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1972.02110100064026

Epidemics of catarrhal jaundice or infectious hepatitis (IH) have been described from numerous countries in previous centuries, but 1920 is a suitable starting point for these general remarks. Two opposing views on the means of transmission were prevalent at that time. The not infrequent presence of catarrh of the nasopharynx, sore throat, or tonsillitis as initial symptoms and the tendency for outbreaks to appear in the autumn and winter supported the concept of droplet spread from the respiratory tract. The unsatisfactory hygiene and the pattern of occurrence of cases among armed forces in the eastern Mediterranean in the 1914-1918 war, pointed to fecal contamination of food and water as a possible common source. The latter and the fecal/oral route of person-to-person spread were eventually established in volunteers and by epidemiological studies during World War II. The disease was attributed to a virus which, by 1947, was known as IH or