Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/137
disease, being chiefly responsible for all our most fatal epidemics. During the last London epidemic, in 1866, when the mortality rose to 904 in a single week, Dr. Farr found that the outbreak was confined mainly to the area supplied with water by the East London Water Company. This was drawn from the river Lea, which on investigation proved to be polluted. Tbe supply was stopped, and the deaths decreased from week to week until the disease disappeared from the district. Other London districts that had suffered terribly in preceding epidemics escaped almost entirely in this one, due likewise to the improved drainage and water-supply that had been provided by the authorities during the interval.
Cases of similar import, coming to light during the present epidemic in Europe, are numerous, and equally striking.
These facts point unmistakably to the means required for limiting the spread of the disease. The strict isolation of the sick, the immediate destruction of all discharges and of any articles tainted by them, careful watchfulness concerning the purity of the water-supply of the city or district, and the use of boiled water where possible taint is suspected, with equal vigilance regarding the quality and purity of the food—in a word, the nearest practicable approach to absolute cleanliness of the person, of what he eats, drinks, and wears, and of the home and its surroundings—is the surest guarantee of safety from attack and a certain protection against the occurrence of epidemics.
To secure these important conditions in the households of the masses in our large cities something more is needed than the mere force of sanitary authority. The people themselves should be made to realize that their individual cooperation is indispensable. This may reasonably be expected when they come to understand the causes which give rise to epidemics, and the protective measures that are within their reach. The result will be hastened by adapting our public-school education a little more closely to the needs of modern life, and teaching a generation of boys and girls the simple principles of household hygiene. Dwellers in cities will then demand sanitary provisions that have now to be forced upon them, and the days of scares and mobs in the face of threatened epidemics will be over.