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A Handbook of Health by Woods Hutchinson

Whenever a patient comes in with tuberculosis


The

next best safeguard is plenty of fresh air and sunlight in every room of the house. These things are doubly helpful, both because they increase the vigor and resisting power of those who occupy the rooms and might catch the disease, and because direct sunlight, and even bright daylight, will rapidly kill the bacilli when it can get directly at them.

How great is the actual risk of infection in crowded, ill-ventilated houses is well shown by the reports of the tuberculosis dispensaries of New York and other large cities. Whenever a patient comes in with tuberculosis, they send a visiting nurse to his home, to show him how best to ventilate his rooms, and to bring in all the other members of the family to the dispensary for examination. No less than from _one-fourth to one-half_ of the children in these families are found to be already infected with tuberculosis. The places where we look for our new cases of tuberculosis now are in the same rooms or houses with old ones. A careful consumptive is no source of danger; but alas, not more than one in three are of that character.

[Illustration: A SIGN THAT OUGHT NOT TO BE NECESSARY

But, being necessary, it should be strictly respected and obeyed.]

It has been estimated that any city or county could provide proper camps, or sanatoria, to accommodate all its consumptives and cure two-thirds of them

in the process, support their families meanwhile, and stop the spread of the disease, at an expense not to exceed five dollars each per annum for five years, rapidly diminishing after that. If this were done, within thirty years consumption would probably become as rare as smallpox is now. Some day, when the community is ready to spend the money, this will be done, but in the mean time, we must attack the disease by slower and less certain methods.

[Illustration: A COMPARATIVE DEATH-RATE OF CONTAGIOUS DISEASES

Note the number of deaths from tuberculosis to one from smallpox; yet smallpox before the days of vaccination and quarantine, was the universal scourge. Similarly, by preventive measures, we are controlling the other diseases. Why not also tuberculosis? (Statistics for greater New York, 1908; total number of deaths from all causes, 73,072.)]

Why the Fear and Danger of Consumption have been Lessened. Terrible and deadly as consumption is, we no longer go about in dread of it, as people did twenty-five years ago, before we knew what caused it; for we know now that it is preventable and that two-thirds of the cases can be cured after they develop. The word consumption is no longer equivalent to a sentence of death. The deaths from tuberculosis each year have diminished almost one-half in the last forty years, in nearly every civilized country in the world; and this decrease is still going on.

The methods which have brought about this splendid progress, and which will continue it, if we have the intelligence and the determination to stick to them, are:--First, the great improvements in food supply, housing, ventilation, drainage, and conditions of life in general, due to the progress of modern civilization and science, combined with a marked increase in wages in the great working two-thirds of the community. Second, the discovery that consumption is caused by a bacillus, and by that alone, and is spread by the scattering of that bacillus into the air, or upon food, drink, or clothing, to be breathed in or eaten by other victims. Third, increase of medical skill and improved methods of recognizing the disease at a very early stage. A case of consumption discovered early means a case cured, eight times out of ten.


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