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Shiver me timbers!! 'Seafarers' disease' scurvy on rise among children due to lack of vitamin C in d


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'Seafarers' disease' scurvy on rise among children due to lack of vitamin C in diet



By Daniel Martin

Last updated at 3:03 AM on 07th November 2009



article-0-02F3827100000578-341_233x385.jpg Citrus fruits: A good source of vitamin C


Scurvy is making a comeback among England's children.

Caused by a lack of vitamin C, the potentially fatal disease was a scourge of pirates and sailors in the heyday of the British Empire, but was thought to be largely a thing of the past.

However, newly released statistics show that the number of children admitted to hospital with scurvy soared by over 50 per cent in the past three years.

Released following a parliamentary question, the figures show that in 2004/05 there were 61 children admitted with scurvy in England.

But by 2007/08, the latest year for which figures are available, there were no fewer than 94 cases: up 54 per cent in three years.

Because the figures cover only those admitted to hospital with scurvy as a primary or secondary diagnosis, the actual numbers with the disease will be far higher as many will not get further than their GP.


Others may be listed under the wider term of 'malnutrition'.

Scurvy occurs if people do not eat enough foods containing vitamin C such as fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, liver and oysters.






Scurvy leads to spots on the skin, particularly the legs, as capillaries break down. There is cracking and bleeding of the lips, nostrils and ears. Gums go spongy and teeth fall out.





Wounds cannot heal properly, and old scars reappear. There is internal haemorrhaging and left untreated, victims will die.

Conservative health spokesman Stephen O'Brien, who uncovered the figures, said: 'It is shocking that this disease of 17th-century pirates is on the rise again in 21st-century England.'

Ursula Arens, of the British Dietetic Association, said it was not possible to say how the children were getting scurvy: whether it was from a poor diet, or as a by-product of other diseases such as cancer.

'There may be examples of children just living on bread and jam and nothing else because of poverty,' she said.

'It is such an unusual thing now that perhaps it is something that many GPs would not be able to diagnose.'

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: 'Families in lower income groups tend to consume less vitamin C in their diet.

'The Department of Health promotes consumption through its "five a day" campaign and Healthy Start, which provides free vitamin supplements for beneficiaries.'

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