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Memphis Medical Monthly
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THE LESSON OF THE PAST.
The prevalence of smallpox is perhaps largely due to the excessively cold weather of the past month, necessitating closed homes and the aggregation of people, such conditions favoring the propagation of the disease aptly termed by Macaulay "the most terrible of all the ministers of death," for from almost every portion of the country come reports of smallpox outbreaks. This occurs just at the time when a crusade against vaccination has been inaugurated in the East, and we hope that it may prove fruitful of some object lessons in the fallacy of an attempt to disprove the value of a preventive measure that has steadily, since 1798, when Jenner first announced his discovery, lowered the mortality and prevalence of this scourge. How any reasoning being can doubt the efficacy of Jennerism in the face of such irrefutable proof of its value as can easily be produced, is beyond comprehension. Prior to Jenner's discovery of vaccination, smallpox was regarded as the king of fatal diseases, and a French writer,
M. de la Condamine, says that smallpox was the cause of onetenth of all the deaths among the human race. Macaulay says: Smallpox was always present, filling the churchyards with corpses, leaving on those whose lives it spared the hideous traces of its power, turning the babe into a changeling at which the mother shuddered, and making the eyes and cheeks of the betrothed maiden objects of horror to her lover." What a graphic and true portrayal of the ravages of this frightful disease! In the short space of a few years, in the sixteenth century, Mexico lost 3,500,000 of her population through it, and in the century preceding the discovery of vaccination there died in Europe of smallpox 50,000,000 people! Thus we learn of the devastation wrought by a single disease. Now let us see what the priceless boon of vaccination has done. We quote from a brochure published by the State health officer of Alabama:
"There died annually, from smallpox, to every million of inhabitants
"In other words, the mortality from smallpox in Copenhagen, after the introduction of vaccination, was only oneeleventh of what it was before; in Berlin it was but onetwentieth; in Sweden one-thirteenth.
"In Boston in 1721, with a population of 11,000, there were 5,989 cases of smallpox, with 850 deaths; in 1730, with a population of 15,000, there were 4,000 cases of smallpox and 500 deaths.
"After the introduction of vaccination there were in Boston from 1811 to 1830, with a greatly increased population, only 14 deaths from this disease, and from 1881 to 1887, only 18. That is to say, in two separate years before the introduction of vaccination, there were in Boston 1,350 deaths from smallpox, the population for those years being 11,000 and 15,000,
respectively. After the introduction of vaccination, from 1811 to 1830, and from 1881 to 1887, two periods covering twenty-five years, and with a vastly increased population, there was a total of deaths from this disease of only 32.
"The figures quoted show beyond dispute that vaccination diminishes to a marked degree, both the liability to, and the fatality from, smallpox. Where formerly, cases numbered into the thousands or hundreds of thousands they now occur by the hundreds or not at all. In Prussia compulsory vaccination has brought the death rate from smallpox down as low as three-hundredths of one per cent., while in countries where vaccination is imperfectly practiced, or not at all, the disease still goes on disfiguring and killing the inhabitants. The statistics establishing this fact are unassailable, and are open to anyone who chooses to consult them. Could people who refuse vaccination be left to the consequences of their own folly they would incur a penalty that would in time make them wiser, but unfortunately they cannot be so left. In bearing the consequences they inevitably inflict them upon others, and their right to do this should be circumscribed."
The anti-vaccinationists claim in controversion of the statistical showing of decrease in this disease, that the lowered mortality is due to improvements in sanitation. This argument is untenable, for the homes of the rich and cleanly as well as the lowly and squalid, are invaded. Louis XV of France, the Emperor of Mexico, and Mary, the wife of William III, succumbed to smallpox, while King William himself was maimed and disfigured for life by this disease.
Mr. Walter Lloyd, in the Westminster Review for November, quoted by the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in an editorial review, declares that sanitation has done little if anything either to destroy the power of infection of smallpox or to prevent its casual introduction developing into an epidemic. Smallpox, he says, is the best example of a contagious disease in the nosological category. It spreads not only by bodily contact, but by transmission of its germs through the air. Therefore attempts to control it by such sanitary measures as are usually effective in the management of zymotic or infectious diseases like cholera, typhus and enteric fever, will not avail.
One of the best examples of the invalidity of the sanitation
theory is that of the remarkable decline of smallpox in Glasgow early in the present century, to which Mr. Lloyd calls. attention. During this period no sanitary improvements were made, but on the other hand, the general adoption of vaccination as a prophylactic measure was synchronous with the decline of this disease.
The facts relating to the decline of smallpox were recorded by Dr. Robert Watt, of Glasgow, in 1813. The statistics cover thirty years, from 1783 to 1812. In the period prior to and including the year 1800, 19 per cent. of all deaths were due to smallpox. The actual figures are: total deaths, 31,088, and from smallpox, 5,958. After 1800 there was a great change; the actual figures for the five periods given as follows:
of six years each are
Smallpox death rate per 100 deaths from all causes
"The fact of the decline in the death rate from smallpox is thus very apparent, as it was also in the mortality from the same disease in numerous other cities in England and elsewhere during the same period."
And what further augments the force of these statistics, Mr. Lloyd finds that the population of Glasgow more than doubled itself during these thirty years of decline in smallpox fatality (population, 1780, being 42,832; in 1811, 110,000), while the insanitary condition of the town continued to grow from bad to worse.
These facts are irrefutable, and one must indeed be prejudiced not to accept the lesson taught by such overwhelming. testimony in favor of vaccination.
The Coming Age, a new and interesting literary magazine published in Boston, will contain in its April number a paper entitled, "Do Physicians and Pharmacists Live on the Misfortunes of Humanity?" by Prof. John Uri Lloyd.
The Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of the Mississippi Valley Medical Association will be held in Chicago, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, September 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th, 1899.
The Mississippi State Medical Association will meet in Jackson, April 19th, 20th, 21st and 22d, 1899. Dr. John R. Tackett, of Biloxi, is secretary, and he and the chairman of the various sections are now receiving titles for the programme.
The Medical Society of the State of Tennessee meets in sixty-ninth annual session, April 11th, 12th and 13th, 1899, in Nashville. The secretary, Dr. W. D. Haggard, Jr., desires titles for the preliminary programme to be sent
in at once.
Dr. George H. Rohe, of Baltimore, an authority on hygiene and sanitary science, died last month at his home in Baltimore.
A Change of Name. One of the oldest and most successful medical advertising agencies in America, that organized by the late A. S. Hummel, has been reorganized and now bears the name of "The Medical Advertising Bureau," of which Mr. L. M. Heilbrun is president, and Mr. F. P. Morse treasurer and manager.
Obstetrics is the title of a new monthly to be devoted to the subject implied by its title, published by the Van Publishing Co., New York, N. Y. Dr. Edward A. Ayers, of New York, is editor, assisted by an advisory board of able specialists, among whom we notice the name of Dr. Alexander Erskine, Professor of Obstetrics in the Memphis Hospital Medical College. We wish the new journal success.
The Board of Health of the City of Memphis has recently issued a circular calling the attention of the local physicians to the city ordinances requiring the reporting of births and of contagious diseases. The secretary, Dr. Haase, requests that births occurring in the newly annexed territory since January 1, 1899, be reported.
New Yorkers, Beware! A correspondent sends in the following lines and asks for comment. Other people no doubt think they have found the "meanest man on earth," but we hasten to warn our metropolitan confreres against this poet-laureate of Arkansas:
JONESBORO, ARK., Feb. 17, 1899.
I left Arkansas, and left today,
Good-bye, Doc, bound for New York this a.m.
H. D. P