A new publication from Herefordshire Lore reveals that dealing with infectious diseases is not new.

Coronavirus has proved a major challenge for the NHS, but back in the early 20th century, local authorities were faced with isolating and treating diseases which vaccination has largely eradicated – such as diptheria, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, TB and polio – but which were then potential killers.

Rather than the wards we now see dedicated to Covid-19 cases, isolation hospitals were set up in Tupsley, Stretton Sugwas, Holme Lacy, Burghill and Almeley, rural locations away from centres of population.

Archive material held by Herefordshire Lore, and included in a new booklet, Health Herefordshire, paints a grim picture.

In 1935, 11-year-old Jim Thomas was taken to Tupsley after contracting diptheria, a bacterial infection.

"Three chaps I went to school with died from it that year mainly because there was nothing that would combat it. It really was a killer and there was quite a bit of it about."

Jim also required emergency surgery, which he later discovered was performed on a painter's trestle table.

On meeting the surgeon Mr McGregor some years later, he was told: "You are bloody lucky to be alive. If I did to you now what I did to you then, I should have been struck off. But if we hadn't operated on you, you would have died."

Another disease that struck fear in the hearts of many in the middle of the last century was polio, a viral infection that could infect a person's spinal cord, leading to paralysis.

Eric Cox from Leominster contracted polio in a German prisoner-of-war camp in World War II.

On his return home he spent 12 months recovering in hospital and was told he would never cycle again, a prediction he proved wrong.

He went on to become a successful competitive cyclist, winning the championship of the Hereford and District Cycle Wheelers Club in 1956.

Find out more about the health of the county over the last century in Health Herefordshire, available from Herefordshire Lore (£5 including p&p). Email: info@herefordshirelore.org.uk or call 07989 733870.