RMG (rmg) wrote in little_details,

Boarding School Outbreak

Setting: Fantasy setting with (at this point) 1910s equivalent technology. This particular nation is a sort of combination of Taisho Japan, 19th century Britain, and some other stuff (a radical equality between the sexes sadly without historical precedent) that's not really relevant to this question about medicine.

Sometimes, being a writer is weird.

Like when you have to figure out the best way to kill somebody's kid. :V

My main character has sent her daughter to the most prestigious boarding school in her country-- basically, it's Eton for girls-- and I need the daughter to die at the age of 16 when suddenly there's an outbreak of some gross disease.

I'm not really sure what would be plausible at this point, though, since this is an expensive and extremely fancy school, not, like, Lowood from Jane Eyre where everyone is perpetually starving and freezing to death. It doesn't matter if it's an infectious disease or something from, say, tainted food, but it should make a large number of pupils sick and therefore cause a huge scandal, since that sort of thing isn't supposed to happen at a big fancy public school! It's the sort of thing that people might remember years later-- the infamous Shinkan College Epidemic of 1486!-- so I'm looking for an outbreak that might be somewhat improbable, but still very much possible.

As a bonus it'd be good to have something that would be fatal before the daughter can be sent home, but since this is the 1910s and there's cars and trains and stuff that's probably not possible.

I've googled variations on boarding school epidemic / boarding school outbreak / 1910s childhood disease / 1910s school epidemics and various other chopped-up combinations of 1910s, outbreaks, epidemics, diseases, etc., etc. This has helped me rule out a few things (smallpox inoculation was apparently common by this point), but not actually choose something. Read up a bit on Cowan Bridge (which inspired Lowood in Jane Eyre), but that was like 50-60 years off and the wrong class anyway. Also read up a bit on the Spanish influenza, but I want to get a handful of students sick, not kill off 3% of the world's entire population.

ETA: Thanks for all the responses! I've decided to ditch the scandal idea (since school epidemics were more common than I'd thought, anyway) and just go for Diphtheria, since the symptoms, level of contagiousness, timing, etc. all work best for what I need.
Tags: japan: history, ~medicine: historical, ~medicine: illnesses to order

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