Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/257

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By Dr. L. O. HOWARD,


AFTER the outbreak of the late war with Spain in the early summer of 1898, typhoid fever soon became prevalent in concentration camps in different parts of the country. In many cases—in fact in fully one-half of the total number—the fever was not recognized as typhoid for some time, but towards the close of the summer it was practically decided that the fever which prevailed was not malarial, but enteric. During that summer the medical journals and the newspapers contained a number of communications from contract surgeons and others advancing the theory that flies were largely responsible for the spread of the disease, owing to the fact that in many of these camps the sinks or latrines were placed near the kitchens and dining tents, and that the enormous quantity of excrement in the sinks was not properly cared for. One of the most forcible writers on this topic was Dr. H. A. Veeder, whose paper, entitled 'Flies as Spreaders of Disease in Camps' published in the 'New York Medical Record' of September 17, 1898, brought together a series of observations and strong arguments in favor of his conclusion that flies are prolific conveyors of typhoid under improper camp conditions.

This idea was not a new one. Following the proof of the agency of flies in the transmission of Asiatic cholera by Tizzoni and Cattani, Sawtchanko, Simmonds, Uffelmann, Flugge and Macrae, it was shown by Celli as early as 1888 that flies fed on the pure cultures of Bacillus typhi abdominalis are able to transmit virulent bacilli in their excrement. Dr. George M. Kober, of Washington, in his lectures before the Medical College of Georgetown University, had for some years been insisting upon the agency of flies in the transmission of typhoid, and in the report of the health officer of the District of Columbia for the year ending June 30, 1895, referred to the probable transferrence of typhoid germs from the privies and other receptacles for typhoid stools to the food supply of the house by the agency of flies.

Moreover, the Surgeon-General of the Army, Dr. George M. Sternberg, was fully alive to the great importance of the isolation and disinfection of excrement, as evidenced in his prize essay on 'Disinfection and Personal Prophylaxis in Infectious Diseases,' published by the American Public Health Association in 1885, and in the first circular issued from his office in the spring of 1898 (April) careful instruc-