There exist many stories and reports to prove the transmission of influenza through merchandise of all kinds, letters, linen, clothing, fur, and even through grain from Russia. They date almost exclusively from the latest pandemic.
We shall mention only a few of these often quoted examples: A celebrated case was the sudden outbreak of influenza in Paris at the end of November, 1889, among the employees of the Grands magasins du Louvre,-in one day, over 100 persons were taken ill, and in a few days the number rose to 500,-which it was sought to explain by the fact that imported merchandise from Russia had brought in the germs of the disease. But the exact inquiries of Brouardel and Proust proved the fallacy of this explanation. For three years no goods had been obtained from Russia.
Another frequently quoted example is illustrated by the case of the two winter porters upon the St. Gotthard Hospice in January, 1890. One of these had descended to the valley, to Airolo, at which place there was a marked epidemic. Returning to the hospice he remained well; his companion, however, ten days later, was attacked with symptoms which might have been due to influenza, but this is, at least, doubtful.
It is generally accepted that influenza was brought from the infected Louvre in Paris to Basel, through a shipment of merchandise. The first case in Basel is said to have been one of the workmen who was engaged in unpacking this consignment.
The fact that in many cities (Edinburgh, Vienna, New York, Boston, Rochester, London, etc.) the postal officials were the first persons to be affected, and that too in large numbers, has been used to support this idea, because they were the first to come in contact with infected material.
But although these, like many other examples in the literature, will not bear criticism, the possibility of communication of the disease by healthy persons and by merchandise, especially underwear, handkerchiefs, and, in the warm seasons, perhaps by flies and other insects, cannot be simply ignored.
The theory of transmission of the disease exclusively by traveling influenza patients and convalescents would have to be unduly stretched to explain the rapid transmission in the latest pandemic over so large an area in so short a time. The proof of the communicability of the virus by the healthy and by merchandise would considerably diminish these difficulties. We would also admit the aerodromic transmission of the germs to a certain extent through small distances from the place of an outbreak of the pestilence, to assist in explaining difficulties (explosive affection of the masses, compare p. 564) and in bringing them into accord with our contagionistic creed.
We feel unable to agree with the above mentioned possibility that healthy individuals can carry about the germs in their nasal cavities and disseminate them without becoming infected, being themselves immune. We accept R. Pfeiffer's statement, that the specific bacilli have, up to the present, been found exclusively in influenza cases and convalescents.
The hypothesis of dissemination of the disease by merchandise has to meet the difficulty that the influenza bacilli, as R. Pfeiffer found, offer but slight resistance to drying. Moreover, no " permanent form" is known. It would not, however, be right to conclude that so permanent a form does not exist, or that conditions never arise outside the human organism and under natural circumstances (in contradistinction to artificial culture media) to render it possible for the contagion to be preserved for some considerable time. Suffice it to say, we thoroughly agree with Pfeiffer's ideas regarding the transmission of influenza by merchandise, namely: (1) That" the dissemination of influenza by dried and pulverized sputum may take place to some small extent; (2) that the sputum of influenza patients if kept moist may preserve its infectious nature at least for fourteen days."
Only a very few authors have supported the view that influenza can be disseminated by drinking water. The principal champion of this teaching, Teissier, although he has produced a number of remarkable facts concerning the dissemination of influenza in several Russian and French cities, nevertheless has signally failed to prove his hypothesis. The demonstration of R. Pfeiffer that influenza bacilli are quickly killed in drinking water has destroyed the basis of this hypothesis.