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"Sanitary reforms best preservative against cholera and other infectious diseases"

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(19 August 1865): 8, cols. D-E

PDF courtesy of Times Digital Archive, via Michigan State University Libraries.

Full transcription pending.

[This editorial applauds the meeting organized by the Privy Council that included members of the Epidemiology Society and extensively reported in the issue of the previous day. The editors suggest that England should review experiences with cholera to date and then take actions that such experiences suggest would be most advantageous in preserving the public health in the event that the current progress of the disease (which they note approximates previous pandemics) reaches our shores. I've included a few extracts that suggest the sanitarian perspective the editors considered the most promising:]

In short, for practical purposes, we may lay it down as a law that Cholera is induced by either foul water or foul air, and may be entirely avoided by taking care to drink none but the purest water, and by paying proper attention to ventilation, cleanliness, and good drainage.

These fact being as certain as that smallpox can be averted by inoculation, it is obvious that there ought to be no occasion for any alarm at all, however imminently Cholera may appear to threaten us. The conditions which we have enumerated are entirely within our power, and they ought to be constantly observed as the only preservative from ordinary epidemic diseases. Unhappily, however, the case is very different. . . . In spite of the drainage works which have been carried out, there are still, it is said, in London no less than 1,000 miles of sewers of deposit, giving off the products of pestilential decomposition, under the streets and houses, and few persons are aware of the number of cesspools which exist uncovered under the basements of London houses. These cesspools, moreover, in too many cases, filter into adjacent wells or pumps, and there is reason to believe that Cholera may be propagated by this means more fatally than any other. A remarkable instance to this effect occurred during the last visitation of this disease. In the neighbourhood of one of its most frightful outbreaks on that occasion it was afterwards found that the pump which was principally used by the inhabitants was thus infected by an adjacent cesspool; and it is probable that the very evacuations of Cholera patients were thus conveyed into the food of hundreds of healthy and temperate persons. The water had a reputation for being peculiarly excellent, and the public should be warned that the sparkling appearance and brisk taste which are prized in drinking water are so far from being a test of its purity that they may even arise from the presence within it of decomposed animal matter. . . .

[There is no specific mention that this pump was in Broad Street, but the editors are clearly aware of Whitehead's finding/suggestion, as well as Snow's argument. Their formulation of this event shows how data that two investigators (Whitehead and Snow) considered evidence for cholera as a specific disease can be incorporated by sanitarians to buttress their views that all infectious diseases are fundamentally alike.]

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