This section is from the book "Health", by W. H. Coefield.
Sewage should be got rid of upon the land, and although there are very great difficulties in the way of it, I can safely say that there is no other system that has been suggested which is capable of purifying sewage water. Irrigation farms should be carried out upon the principle of downward filtration, and though it is the exception for them to be made to pay, still I think you will all agree that if it is the best way by which this water can be purified, so that it shall be fit to run into the streams again, it ought, whenever practicable, even at a certain amount of expense, to be carried out, and if we cannot make it successful from a monetary point of view, we shall most certainly derive from it very valuable crops of grass, which forms excellent food for cattle to supply us with milk, the food which is specially needed for the children in all our large towns; one of the most important causes of the great mortality among the children in our towns has been shown to be due to the want of milk for them, and this want may be most certainly supplied by large grass farms irrigated with the foul water from our large towns.
LECTURE XVIIL smallpox.
I am going to speak to you this evening about one disease; If you ask why I single out this disease from all the rest, I do so because it is, as is acknowledged by all who know anything about the subject, the most fearful disease that has ever afflicted the world, namely, Smallpox.
Now, in order to give those of you who do not know what this disease is an idea of it, I should like to read the eloquent words of Dr. Parkes:-" Smallpox is now so seldom seen that there must be millions of people who have no true idea of it, and do not know its history. It is, in my opinion, the most frightful malady which afflicts us. To see a bad case of smallpox, the thick crust of eruption masking the entire face and head; the swollen, distorted features, which make the person unrecognisable ; the closed eyes, half glued together by matter, and the swollen, open, dribbling mouth; the swollen, nerveless, shaking hand; all form a sight never to be forgotten; and whoever has seen this can see, except leprosy, few things more loathsome. And when it is also found that this disease is in the highest degree contagious, and is caught most readily from person to person, nothing is wanting to give it the first rank in the horrible incidents of life."
I should like also to give you a little idea of what this disease is when introduced into a community for the first time, and I will read to you some extracts from Dr. Guy's excellent little work on Public Health.
"Here is what Alexander Mackenzie says of the disease as it attacked the North American Indians. It was as a fire consuming the dry grass of the field. The infection spread with a rapidity which no flight could escape, and with a fatal effect which nothing could resist. ' It destroyed with its pestilential breath whole families and tribes.' After picturing the scene presented by the dead and dying, and the putrid carcasses dragged out of the huts by the wolves, or mangled inside by the dogs feasting on the disfigured remains of their masters, he finishes by telling us that it was not ' uncommon for the father of a family, whom the infection had not reached, to call them around him, to represent the cruel sufferings and horrid fate of their relations from the influence of some evil spirit who was preparing to extirpate their race, and to incite them to baffle death, with all its horrors, by their own poniards. At the same time, if their hearts failed them in this necessary act, he was himself ready to perform the deed of mercy with his own hand, as the last act of his affection, and instantly to follow them to the common place of rest and refuge from human evil,' To the same effect is the Rev. Mr. Cordiner's description of the ravages of the smallpox in Ceylon, where, according to a very moderate calculation, it carried off a sixth of the inhabitants. We are told that the disease inspired the people with such terror that husbands forr sook their wives, and parents their children, leaving them only a little drink and food; that wild beasts attacked and destroyed the abandoned villages; and that not even the bones of the deserted sick were afterwards to be found."
I will give you one more case of the same class. " A Dutch ship, with smallpox on board, put into the Cape of Good Hope, and the captain sent the foul linen ashore to be washed. The smallpox broke out among the Hottentots who washed the clothes, and killed most of them. It then spread up the country to such an extent that the native tribes at last drew a cordon round the infected places, and shot all who tried to pass beyond it. This fact, cited from Dr. Mead, affords a good illustration of the liability of the disease to be conveyed in articles of clothing."
This disease is no respecter of persons; it is recorded that the father, the mother, the wife, an uncle, and two of the cousins of our King William the Third died of smallpox, and that he himself was severely marked with it.
In the last century, in England, there were thirty-four decided epidemics of smallpox, or about one every three years ; and during that time there were five severe epidemics. You will understand what I mean by severe epidemics when I tell you that they caused more than one hundred and fifty out of every thousand deaths from all causes ; an enormous percentage.
So far from decreasing towards the end of last century, as has been stated, the most fatal year of smallpox in England was the year 1796, in which year no less than 184 persons out of every 1000 who died, died from smallpox, and the five severe epidemics all occurred during the last half of the century; so you see that at the end of last century smallpox was not decreasing. On an average during the last century it caused in England one death out of every twelve from all causes, and it killed about one out of every five it attacked. It was a disease especially fatal to children. Like scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, and diphtheria, it was far more fatal to children than to adults. It is calculated that it caused half the deaths of children under ten years of age. Dr. Guy says, speaking of the statistics of this disease, " If I read the figures aright they point to a disease always specially greedy of the blood of children, but sometimes feasting upon them to repletion, and then waiting with cruel patience till the lapse of time had provided a fresh repast."