Previous Index Next
Page 297
(previous) (Page 000297) (next)

[ll—smelling drains. According to them the matter of epi-
demic disease is formed de now in a putrescent atmosphere.
On the other side we have writers, clear, vigorous, with
well-defined ideas and methods of research, contending that
the matter which produces epidemic disease comes always
from a parent-stock. It behaves as germinal matter, and
they do not hesitate to regard it as such. They no more
believe in the spontaneous generation of such diseases than
they do in the spontaneous generation of mice. Pasteur,
for example, found that pébrine had been known for an in-
definite time as a disease among silk-worms. The develop-
ment of it which he combated was merely the expansion of
an already existing power, the bursting into open confla-
gration of a previously smouldering fire. There is nothing
surprising in this; for though epidemic disease requires a
special contagium to produce it, surrounding conditions
must have a potent influence on its development. Common
seeds may be duly sown, but the conditions of temperature
and moisture may be, such as to restrict or altogether pre‘
vent the subsequent growth. Looked at, therefore, from
the point of view of the germ-theory, the exceptional energy
which epidemic disease from time to time exhibits is not
out of harmony with the method of Nature. You some-
times hear diphtheria spoken of as if it were a new disease
of the last twenty years; but Mr. Simon tells me that from
about three centuries ago, when tremendous epidemics of it
began to rage in Spain (where it was named Garrotz’llo),
and soon afterward in Italy, the disease has been well
known to all successive generations of doctors; and that,
for instance, in or about 1'7 58, Dr. Starr, of Liskeard, in a
communication to the Royal Society, particularly described
the disease, with all the characters which have recently
again become familiar, but under the name of morbus stran-
gulatom'us, as then severely epidemic in Cornwall; a fact
the more interesting as diphtheria, in its more modern re-

Previous Index Next