Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/496

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indicate the agency of a catalytic, or fermentative process. In yellow fever the temperature of the body rises to 105°, and after death often to 112°; the progress of decomposition separates the serum from the red blood-globules (whence the chlorotic hue of the skin), and the bodies of the victims need immediate interment on account of the rapidity with which putrefaction begins, or rather completes, its work. The clinical study of the disease in such towns as Vera Cruz and New Orleans has preserved the record of many curious cases of molecular life after somatic death. Dr. Bennett Dowler ("New York Journal of Medicine," 1846) mentions the case of an Irishman whose arms, after the cessation of respiration, rose and fell with a rhythmical motion, and of a Kentuckian whose flexor muscles, four hours after death, reacted against the slightest mechanical stimulation. The symptoms of ordinary "chills and fevers" can be temporarily suppressed by antiseptic drugs—quinine, arsenic, strychnine, ferro-cyanide of iron—in fact, by all chemicals that would arrest a process of decomposition. Hence also the prophylactic effect of alcohol ("tonic bitters") and of Nature's great antiseptic, frost. That marsh-miasma is only an adjuvant cause of endemic fevers can be abundantly demonstrated by the comparative study of the typographical and climatic conditions of the chief fever-centers, as well as by many unmistakable analogies of "climatic fevers" and certain enteric diseases which can be traced to purely subjective causes. The swampiest districts of Central and South America—the Peninsula of Yucatan, Tehuantepec, the Brazilian province of Entre-Rios, the Orinoco Valley, the "Gran Chaco," or monster-swamp, between Bolivia and Paraguay—enjoy an almost perfect immunity from pyrexial diseases, while Vera Cruz and Pernambuco with their zone of barren sand-hills, or La Guayra, Havana, and Rio Janeiro, with their mountainous vicinity, are subject to yearly visits of the plague. During our last two epidemics the vast Arkansas river-swamps, and the coast-fens of Georgia, Florida, and Texas, escaped, while Vicksburg and Memphis, on their dry bluffs, and Chattanooga, at an elevation of six hundred feet above sea-level, suffered more in proportion to their populations than any place this side of Vera Cruz. During every fever-epidemic the focus of the disease seems to be some commercial city of the tropics or sub-tropics, a town uniting torrid summer climate with the presence of a large number of northern foreigners.

In all fevers ascribed to a malarial origin the success of the conventional mode of treatment depends chiefly upon the efficacy of chemical antiseptics which temporarily suppress or palliate the symptoms of the disease, but (aside from the deleterious after-effects of such drugs) the disease itself can be cured only by the removal of the cause. That cause is the inability of the vital powers to withstand the influence of moist heat from within and without. The proper method of cure, therefore, consists in diminishing the thermal prod-