"As To Yellow Fever"

Author: Author: Wall, John P. (John Perry), b. 1867

Date: n.d.

Series: S 915

(Page 4 of 6)

Early Florida Medicine


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American Public Health Association, 1886,

on disinfection and individual prophylaxis

against infectious diseases, by Dr. Sternberg,

Surgeon United States Army, we find the

following on yellow fever.

“This disease, like cholera, is contracted

in infected localities, rather than by contact

with the sick. Indeed, it is rarely, if ever,

communicated directly by a sick person to

his attendants. In infected places the poison

seems to be given off from the soil, or from

collections of decomposing organic matter,

and we have no definite evidence that it is

communicated through the medium of food

or drinking water (as is the case with chol-

era.—W.) The history of epidemics of this

disease shows that when it obtains a lodg-

ment in a city or town which is an unsani-

tary condition, in southern latitudes and

during the summer months, it extends its

area and invades new localities similarly sit-

uated, until frost occurs, or at least until the

weather becomes comparatively cool in the

autumn. Those who remain in an infected

area, unless protected by a previous attack,

are almost certain to contract the disease,

and much less can be done in the way of in-

dividual prophylexis than in cholera. We

therefore advise all who can get out of the

way of this fatal disease to do so. * * * *

* * * This being the case, we repeat

our advice to all those whose duty does not

require them to stay on the field of batter,

to make an orderly retreat to some place of



If such is the teaching of science, will

Medical men on county boards of health

please tell the public how much sense there

is in their fifteen days’ quarantine of indi-

viduals? Are they mere puppets of panic-

stricken communities, and by being thus,

prostitute science and professional propriety

to magnify their importance in the popular

estimation? Do they think it a light and

trivial thing to interrupt and prostrate all

business and bankrupt common carriers be-

cause these foolish measures of quarantine

are applauded by some scared editor who

has aroused by his ill-timed effusions on a

subject of which he knows but little, if any-

thing, a groundless popular apprehension?

Does it not occur to them that they are ex-

hibiting themselves to their professional

brethren who read and think, as being either

ignorant or dishonorable? Has it never oc-

curred to them that they are playing the role

of quacks and charlatans? Much would I

prefer to be shunned by the ignorant than

thus to sacrifice truth and science to the

clamor of a senseless scare, and forfeit my

own self-respect.


If, as is pretty well established, yellow

fever is not a contagious disease, and there

is no danger from the well, sick or dead,

from the infected locality – barring the

clothing and other effects – how is this thing

of confining a people to an infected locality

to be justified? Do they expect them to

remain and die like dumb brutes? If they

do, they are fools as well as inhuman mon-

sters. I told the people of Tampa that we

had yellow fever here, and advised them to

get out. I did this deliberately, and to pre-

vent reports being spread, I got the tele-

graph operators to refuse to receive any mes-


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sages that would give the alarm to the out-

side world until I could give the people a

chance to get away. I know, Mr. editor,

that I was not endangering the lives of 250,-

000 people of the State as you charged, be-

cause I knew that the infection was only

here, and did not extend all over the State.

I was guided by the teachings of science,

and actuated by humanity and common

sense in my proceedings. The result has

vindicated my course and prevented an in-

crease of calamity that would, in all proba-

bility, have amounted to a holocaust in

sacrifice to life, to say nothing of the in-

creased suffering that would have naturally

resulted. I have nothing but the profound-

est contempt for the nincompoop M. Ds. and

pseudonymous liars of the “Viator” stripe

who write about fifteen days’ incubation and

a State Board of Health, and took occasion

to maliciously misrepresent me at a time

when I had neither time nor opportunity to

defend myself. The charge made by the
T imes-Union and “Viator” that I said I

would guarantee that “no yellow fever got

into Tampa,” is false in toto. When that

“M. D.” quoted Flint about the fifteen days’

incubation, why did he not quote him cor-

rectly? and why did he leave out what I have

quoted from the same author on quarantine?

Do you think that was either gentlemanly or



It is just such nincompoops as he who

impose false ideas upon the people, and ex-

cite groundless apprehensions of danger.


As for railroad quarantine, it is an absurd-

ity, and the disinfection practiced with sul-

phur at the quarantine station, was bout as

efficient as so much ordinary smoke. Yet, it

met the approval, according to their report,

of two or three of your Jacksonville physic-

cians, who reported that the fumigation at

Dr. Caldwell’s camp was satisfactory, and

was of two or four hours’ duration, I am not

certain which. Now, in the article on Dis-

infection, in Vol. 2, Reference handbook of

the Medical Sciences, by Dr. Sternberg (pre-

viously quoted), page 480, can be found this:

“Fumigation with sulphur dioxide has

been largely relied on for the disinfection of

clothing. To be effectual, the articles to be

disinfected must be freely exposed to its ac-

tion, in a well closed chamber, for a period

of at least twelve hours. Burn three pounds

of sulphur for each thousand cubic feet of

air space in the room.”


And, besides, it is only efficient for micro-

organisms in the absence of spores, being

quite impotent for the destruction of these

reproductive elements. Now, do they know

anything about the micro-organisms and

spores of yellow fever? and whether or not

these spores—the reproductive elements—

pertain to the yellow fever poison? And as

for the closeness of the fumigating chamber,

if it was the one I saw, it was wholly lacking,

and failed to confine the fumes of the sul-

phur, which were escaping in a manner to

remind one very much of a country smoke-

house in the bacon-curing season. And yet

this was satisfactory to the sanitarians and

hygienists of Duval county!


In the North Carolina Medical Journal of

November, 1878, Dr. R. A., Kinloch, of Charles-



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