Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/295

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infectious character when communicating with water-supplies, or through its malarial gases affecting the air of houses. At present the causes of high death-rates are as certainly known as the course of storms. Indeed, the intelligent physician will predict the necessary consequences which must ensue from the presence in a crowded city of matter which should be removed. Interested as I have been in these subjects, I looked forward with considerable eagerness to an opportunity for studying the conditions which obtain among the Japanese concerning these matters. Their manner of living, their food, their domestic habits, are all so different from ours, that it naturally occurred to me, if these filth-diseases are as common here, with their cleanly habits, and the universal custom of removing offal from their dwellings, as with us where the same matter lies in a frightful state for months to pollute the neighborhood, then the points urged in regard to the relations between filth-diseases and offal must be modified or abandoned.

What do the facts show?

At home, the following conditions are rightly looked upon as grave sources of danger: the presence of privies in the vicinity of wells, cellars filled with decaying vegetable matter, a water-closet or privy connected immediately with a house, or the ingress of sewage-gas to a house. It is at present difficult to get any vital statistics regarding the Japanese. While the Government and people have made the most surprising strides toward the civilization of Western nations (for they have a civilization of their own which in many respects is far ahead of ours[1]), and have established normal schools and universities, medical and naval colleges, hydrographic and other surveys, they have not yet seen the importance of organizing a board of health.[2]

One would be justified in assuming that if these sources of danger existed, the foreigner, unacclimated as he is, would be more susceptible to their influence than the native. Dr. Stuart Eldridge, of Yokohama, a distinguished physician, who has had a long and varied experience in this country in hospital-work and as an active practitioner, has kindly furnished me with the following data at my request: "Scarlet fever almost unknown, never epidemic. Diphtheria almost unknown, never epidemic. Severer forms of bowel-disease, such as dysentery and chronic diarrhœa, very rare. Mala-

  1. If some of the indications of civilization are to treat each other kindly, to treat their children with unvarying kindness, to treat the animals below them with tenderness, to honor their father and mother, to be scrupulously clean in their persons, to be frugal and temperate in their habits—if these features be recognized as civilized, then this pagan nation in these respects is as far ahead of us as we are ahead of the Tierra del Fuegans.
  2. We ought not to expect this of Japan, perhaps, since the representatives sent by Maine to her Legislature were, with few exceptions, too ignorant to appreciate the necessity of a State board of health, and were incredulous that the physicians who urged the measure so strongly were unselfishly working for its establishment!