A Guide to Health/Part 2/Chapter 7

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A Guide to Health  (1921) 
Mohandas K. Gandhi, translated by A. Rama Iyer
Other Contagious Diseases
S. Ganesan pages 112-116

Chapter VII

OTHER CONTAGIOUS DISEASES

We do not dread chicken-pox so much as its elder sister, since it is not so fatal, and does not cause disfigurement and the like. It is, however, exactly the same as small-pox in other respects, and should therefore be dealt with in the same way.

Bubonic Plague is a terrible disease, and has accounted for the death of millions of our people since the year 1896, when it first made its real entry into our land. The doctors, in spite of all their investigations, have not yet been able to invent a sure remedy for it. Now-a-days the practice of inoculation has come into vogue, and the belief has gained ground that an attack of plague may be obviated by it. But inoculation for plague is as bad and as sinful as vaccination for small-pox. Although no sure remedy has been devised for this disease, we will venture to suggest the following treatment to those who have full faith in Providence, and who are not afraid of death.

(1) The "Wet-Sheet-Pack" should be applied as soon as the first symptoms of fever appear.

(2) A thick mud-poultice should be applied to the bubo.

(3) The patient should be completely starved.

(4) If he feels thirsty, he should be given limejuice in cold water.

(5) He should be made to lie in the open air.

(6) There should not be more than one attendant by the side of the patient.

We can confidently assert that, if plague can be cured by any treatment at all, it can be cured by this.

Though the exact origin and causes of plague are yet unknown, it is undoubted that rats have something to do with its communication. We should, therefore, take all precautions, in a plague infected area, to prevent the approach of rats in our dwellings; if we cannot get rid of them, we should vacate the house.

The best remedy to prevent an attack of plague is, of course, to follow strictly the laws of health,—to live in the open air, to eat plain wholesome food and in moderation, to take good exercise, to keep the house neat and clean, to avoid all evil habits, and, in short, lead a life of utter simplicity and purity. Even in normal times our lives should be such, but, in times of plague and other epidemics, we should be doubly careful.

Pneumonic Plague is an even more dangerous form of this disease. Its attack is sudden and almost invariably fatal. The patient has very high fever, feels extreme difficutly in breathing, and in most cases, is rendered unconscious. This form of plague broke out in Johannesburg in 1904, and as has been already said,[1] only one man escaped alive out of the 23 who were attacked. The treatment for this disease is just the same as that for Bubonic Plague, with this difference that the poultice should be applied in this case to both sides of the chest. If there be no time to try the "Wet-Sheet-Pack", a thin poultice of mud should be applied to the head. Needless to say, here as in other cases, prevention is better than cure.

We are terribly afraid of cholera, as of plague, but in fact, it is much less fatal. Here the "Wet-Sheet-Pack", however, is of no effect, but the mud-poultice should be applied to the stomach, and where there is a tingling sensation, the affected part should be warmed with a bottle filled with warm water. The feet should be rubbed with mustard-oil, and the patient should be starved. Care should be taken to see that he does not get alarmed. If the motions are too frequent, the patient should not be repeatedly taken out of bed, but a flat shallow vessel should be placed underneath to receive the stools. If these precautions are taken in due time, there is little fear of danger. This disease generally breaks out in the hot season, when we generally eat all sorts of unripe and over-ripe fruits in immoderate quantities and in addition to our ordinary food. The water also that we drink during this season is often dirty, as the quantity of it in wells and tanks is small, and we take no trouble to boil or filter it. Then again, the stools of the patients being allowed to lie exposed, the germs of the disease are communicated through the air. Indeed, when we consider how little heed we pay to these most elementary facts and principles, we can only wonder that we are not more often attacked by these terrible diseases.

During the prevalence of cholera, we should eat light food in moderation. We should breathe plenty of fresh air; and the water that we drink should always be thoroughly boiled, and filtered with a thick clean piece of cloth. The stools of the patient should be covered up with a thick layer of earth. Indeed, even in normal times, we should invariably cover up the stools with ashes or loose earth. If we do so, there would be much less. danger of the spread of disease. Even the lower animals like the cat take this precaution, but we are worse than they in this respect.

It should also be thoroughly impressed on the minds of persons suffering from contagious diseases, as well as those around them, that they should, under no circumstances, give way to panic, for fear always paralyses the nerves and increases the danger of fatality.