Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/348

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

were formerly considered independent of the soil, because their specific germs are communicable and are actually communicated by human intercourse and trade, are still in some way connected with it, although the nature of the connection is yet to be found out. The explanation of the frequent, sharply defined local limitations of cholera and typhoid has been sought first, in influences not of soil but of water and air, to which the germs of disease have been imparted from men; but a clear and impartial examination of the local prevalence of these diseases in circles of greater or lesser extent has now furnished evidence that in many cases air and water can no longer be maintained to be the causes of the localization, but that the sources of the epidemic must be sought in the soil.

In the occurrence of cholera on ships at sea, where any influence of soil would seem to be absolutely out of the question, that influence often makes itself apparent in a striking manner by the fact that only persons who have come from certain places are attacked, while other persons on the ships do not even have a diarrhœa, although they are all the time with the sick, and use the same food and water and air. Ships at sea may be considered as in themselves safe from cholera; usually sickness brought upon them in individual cases dies out; and it is regarded in seafaring practice as an excellent prophylactic measure to go to sea, taking the sick along and breaking up all communication of the men with the infected port or shore. Exceptional cases of epidemics breaking out on ships can not be regarded as arising from contagion from person to person, but always from previous communication of the ship or its crew or passengers with some place infected with the disease.

Not less plainly and frequently is the real influence of the soil shown in inland regions and towns that enjoy immunity from cholera. Permit me to bring forward as a well-known but pregnant example the great manufacturing and commercial city of Lyons, in Southern France, which has constantly maintained with impunity the most active intercourse by sea and land with cities infected with cholera ever since the disease first appeared in Europe. Often as cholera-epidemics have prevailed in Paris and Marseilles, the disease has never yet gained an epidemic footing in Lyons, which lies right between those two cities, notwithstanding many cases have been brought into it from without. Even in 1849, when the city was in revolt and was besieged and occupied by cholera-infected regiments from Paris and Marseilles, and the civil population were suffering from disorder, want, and misery of every kind, the disease did not spread.

The immunity of Lyons is now a generally recognized fact in France, and the city derives a considerable profit from it; for the rich people of Paris and Marseilles, whose circumstances permit it, are accustomed to flock to Lyons like sheep as soon as cholera breaks out in their homes, and readily pay a good price for the patient hospi-