Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/89

This page has been validated.

of 1875 about a thousand visitors were assembled at Rye Beach, and a considerable number were attacked with a series of symptoms which led to the suspicion that they had consumed some noxious article. The incidence of the disease was entirely confined to three hundred persons occupying one of the large hotels. The sanitary state of this hotel is said to have been exceptionally good, and, although suspicion seemed at first to attach to the water-supply, yet the disease was found to have affected many who, "having apprehended trouble from the use of the water," which was strongly impregnated with salts of lime and magnesia, "had carefully limited themselves since their arrival to other beverages." Indeed, as the result of a careful process of elimination, suspicion came at last to be directed to the ice furnished to the house. The water obtained by melting the ice was discolored and charged with suspended matter, and gave off a decidedly disagreeable odor; the atmosphere of the ice-house was offensive, and some persons who had used the ice away from the hotel were found to have suffered in the same way from violent illness. The ice in question had been derived from a local pond, the water of which was found to have become foul from long-continued stagnation; one portion of the pond, measuring about five hundred feet in length and one hundred and fifty feet in width, was occupied by "a homogeneous mass of putrescent matter." A piece of ice, carefully cleansed from all surface impurities, was then melted, and the water thus obtained was submitted to chemical analysis, the result being the detection in it of a quantity of "decaying organic matter." The use of the ice had also in the mean time been discontinued, and coincident with its disuse "there was observed an abrupt amelioration in the symptoms of nearly all who had hitherto been ill." So, also, no fresh attacks occurred during the remainder of the season.

Even among the more educated classes there prevails an impression that even if water is contaminated it is purified by freezing. Many experiments have, however, shown the fallacy of this view. In some of these made recently by Mr. C. P. Pengra, an American chemist, various organic matters (urea, albumen, etc.) were mixed with water, and the specimens were gradually frozen. A certain amount of purification did take placeā€”the ice containing thirty and even forty per cent less organic matter than the unfrozen liquid. But a large amount of the added pollution remained, and the investigator, though expressing surprise that the purification had been as great as it was, says that the experiments afford abundant proof that we ought not to tolerate the indiscriminate collection of ice.

These experiments do not, however, prove that the contagium of an infectious fever can withstand the process of freezing, but as to this we are not left in doubt. Dr. E. Klein, F. R. S., thus reports the results of some of his experiments in freezing bacillus anthracis: "I have exposed in a capillary pipette fluid full of spores to the influence