Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/304

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
300
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the healthy mate; the likelihood of unhealthy offspring, or of its early and perhaps—under the circumstances—fortunate death; and other indications suggesting disaster at the very beginning of married life, when all the circumstances, if any time in life ever required it, should be favorable and founded upon virility of mind and body.

The tubercle bacillus gets into the body either with the air we breathe, or with tuberculous food-stuffs, or rarely through wounds. Wherever it implants itself an inflammation may occur about it, with the result that a tubercle is formed (tuber is Latin for root or bulb). This tubercle is in size from that of a millet seed to a hickory nut or larger. Its development is called tuberculosis. Under favorable circumstances it becomes surrounded by fibrous tissue, somewhat like the scar which would follow a wound of the skin; and then the tubercle will be comparatively harmless to the organism. However, 'cheesy degeneration' may result, two or several adjacent tubercles may break down together, a cavity may form, containing purulent material in which, on being coughed up, the bacilli are discerned by the microscope. These bacilli and these tubercles may exist in any part of the body—the skin, the bones, the joints, the lymph glands. And they, or the products of their disintegration, may be carried by the lymph and blood channels to other parts; and it is probable that in many cases the pulmonary type of tuberculosis is not originally a lesion of the lung tissue, but a product transferred from a point of implantation elsewhere.

If tuberculosis does not undergo fibrosis it is likely to be developed, through the agency of some acute 'predisposing cause,' into the complex of symptoms which we term consumption. Those thus afflicted become progressively very weak and very much emaciated. Their hearts beat rapidly and they are apt to have a pink flush on their cheeks, which is quite unlike the blush of. a healthy person, but which is in reality an indication of the fever that is consuming them. The rest of their faces is very pale and thin and is suffused with a clammy sweat. Their cheek bones are prominent. And their eyes have a quite unnatural brilliancy, seeming large and beautiful. But their luster is not of health—rather of disease and too often of death. It is such eyes that the poet Bryant has portrayed in a touching and melancholy sonnet. And the consumptive spits blood sometimes, and is short of breath, and has a persistent, hacking cough, that harasses him dreadfully, and does not let him rest.

The reader is now likely to wonder how, with all these teeming billions of bacilli about, any one ever escapes the disease. The fact is, the bacillus allows very few of us to die without leaving some trace of its activity in our system. Jeder Mensch hat am Ende ein bischen Tuberculose, as Naegali demonstrated in 98 per cent, of the bodies