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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/590

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ends at Uzun Ada on the Caspian Sea opposite Baku. Early in 1899 an outbreak of the plague occurred near Samarcand, undoubtedly brought up from India. The precautions taken to prevent the spread were entirely successful, and although no accounts have been officially published as to the means employed, nevertheless it will be seen that the radical procedure employed by Loris Melikoff some twenty years ago was again resorted to. Inasmuch as the entire village was said to be afflicted it was surrounded by troops, and no one was allowed to enter or leave. The village and all that it contained was destroyed by fire. With this route open continually it is evident that fresh importation must be expected sooner or later.

Apparently a new plague focus, independent of that in Yunnan and Hong Kong, has been recently discovered in Manchuria. The plague seems to have existed in this province for more than ten years under the name of Tarabagan plague, and is believed to be spread by a rodent, the Arctomis cobuc, which is subject to a hemorrhagic pneumonia. The presence of such an independent endemic focus in Manchuria indicates the possibility of the spread of the disease by caravan to Lake Baikal, and thence by the Siberian railroad to Russia. Indeed, the epidemic of pneumonic type which began July, 1899, at Kolobovka, in Astrakhan, while it may have been imported from Persia, might also owe its origin to the Mongolian focus.

Russia, however, is not the only country endangered by the overland transmission of the disease. There are commercial highways which lead from Northwestern India through Baluchistan and Persia to the Caucasus, and through Turkey to Constantinople. Grave danger threatens from this source, and more especially from the cities along the Persian Gulf. Two important cities here are already infected, namely, Bushire, in Persia, and Bassorah on the Tigris, in Turkey. It would appear as if Turkey and Persia would escape with difficulty from a visitation of this dread disease.

Such, then, is the geographical distribution of the present outbreak of the plague. This, an apparently extinct disease, has suddenly reappeared and given evidence of its power to spread death and desolation. Fortunately, however, modern sanitary precautions are quite able to restrict its progress, provided they be applied at the proper time and place. Filth and overcrowding, protracted wars and famine, have been the powerful allies of the plague in the past. Through their aid this disease has made a deep impression upon the pages of history. It may not be out of place, therefore, to turn from the present outbreak of the disease and trace its grewsome past.

In ancient writings references are found which would seem to indicate the existence of the plague at a very early date. The Bible contains several such references (Deuteronomy, Chapter 28, paragraph 27.