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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/257

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247
PREVENTIVE INOCULATION.

body if we are to be inoculated against all diseases? and with this other one, How do you expect us to make a living if you try to keep all of us alive? The humorous form of these questions usually permits of their dropping out of the conversation without a reply. The earnest answers are, however, obvious. The efforts of the bacteriologists in combating diseases are at present directed to a twofold aim: their prevention, by a prophylactic treatment, and their cure. The advantage of a curative treatment is that it is to be applied to a relatively small number of persons, to those who actually fall victims to an attack; while that of the preventive treatment is in the greater certainty with which safety and protection are secured by it. The relative position of the two treatments will, in practice, differ in different diseases—namely, according to the prevalence and fatality of a given disease, and according to the merits of the two treatments as they stand at the time. In diseases in which the risks of being attacked are smaller, or the consequences of an attack less serious, or for which a very effective and sure curative treatment has been discovered, the majority of people will prefer lo M r ait for an actual attack rather than to undergo the discomfort of a preventive treatment; in diseases, on the contrary, in which the chances of being attacked are great, or in which the fatality is higher, the sequels of an attack more serious, and for which a successful and not very troublesome preventive treatment has been found, large numbers will undergo preventive inoculation. But, even in the latter case, a mutual co-operation between the two methods will exist always, as there will always be a number of people, either among those who have neglected to protect themselves by inoculation, or among those in whom the inoculation has proved unsuccessful, who will fall victims to an attack and require the benefits of a curative treatment, be those at the time little or great.

The answer to the second question is of course to be expected rather from the politico-economist, the wise administrator, the civilian, than from the bacteriologist. In any case it is clear already that if we are ever to be told that we must thin our ranks, we shall prefer not to leave the task in the hands of the indiscriminating microbe, but to have some voice in the matter ourselves. Inoculation marks only the conquest of another force which henceforth we shall be glad to control.

Bombay, India, March, 1900.