Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/72

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INSTRUCTION in the nature of infectious diseases, especially in the means of transmitting these diseases from one person to another, is required by law in all our public schools. This law is of great value; for it is only through the intelligent cooperation of a well-informed public, that hygienic and sanitary measures designed to control and stamp out infectious diseases can be successful. A wide diffusion of this knowledge will go far to make tuberculosis a thing of the past, and diphtheria and small-pox unknown.

In obedience to the legal requirement, there are taught, in our public schools, certain elementary facts regarding the nature of pathogenic bacteria, and certain facts regarding the ways in which they are transmitted from one person to another. These facts in themselves are of inestimable value. But they are insufficient.

The presence of bacteria within or upon the human body, the transmission of disease-germs from the sick to the well, is but one of the factors tending to cause disease. To acquire a disease it is necessary, not only to acquire the germs of that disease, but there usually must be a lowering of bodily resistance as well.

Every fourth person in this room is carrying daily in his throat and mouth virulent pneumococci. Yet he does not acquire pneumonia. And why? Because there is an efficient defense against this disease in the healthy human body. Some day this defense will be lowered and pneumonia develop. Most soldiers in the Philippines carry in their intestinal canals virulent germs of dysentery; and with no ill effects, till intoxication or dietary excesses lower the intestinal resistance. We daily inhale germs of tuberculosis. Some day, when our resistance is low, we acquire the disease.

A knowledge of the body's fighting power against bacteria, a knowledge of the ways in which that power can be increased or decreased by hereditary influences and by modes of life, is therefore of hygienic importance, and should form part of the curriculum of every public school.

The body fights disease in many ways. It will be sufficient for hygienic purposes to teach but three of these ways: the method of antitoxines, the method of antiseptics and the method of phagocytosis.

  1. An address before the Indiana Academy of Science, at Indianapolis, December 1, 1906.