NARRATIVE OF CHOLERA EPIDEMIC OF 1873
Dr. James Johnson, Grayson County.
Dr. B. K. Wood, Grayson County.
Dr. A. W. Atcheson, Grayson County.
Surgeon John F. Hammond, U. S. A.,
Medical Director Department of Texas.
Denison, Grayson County, August 1.
Having been informed by Dr. C.B. White, the president of the Louisiana State board of health, that early in the year 1873 he received a letter from a medical friend resident at San Antonio, Texas, inquiring as to the existence of cholera in the city of New Orleans, and stating that suspicious diarrhoeal cases had occurred at or near San Antonio, we addressed Surgeon John F. Hammond, U. S. A., medical director Department of Texas, asking information on this subject, from whom we have received the following letter:
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, September 10, 1874
Assistant Surgeon ELY MCCLELLAN:
"MY DEAR DOCTOR: On inquiry among the physicians of this place, I have ascertained that, there were in San Antonio"
I. An unusual number of cases of diarrhoeal diseases in the month of December, 1872, and that during January and the succeeding five months the number of such cases was greater than usual.
II. Several cases are said to have assimilated cholera. One case, that of the Rev. Mr. Guion, chaplain Tenth United States Cavalry, which was under my care, occurred during the latter part of May or early in June. It was a severe attack of cholera morbus. I was struck with its resemblance to cholera. He was decidedly convalescent within thirty-six hours from the commencement of the attack.
III. All the cases, so far as my information extends, except that of Mr. Guion, occurred among Mexicans.
I see by the monthly reports of sick and wounded on file here, that among the troops stationed here at the time, both white and blacks, there was no unusual occurrence of these diseases.
J. F. HAMMOND
The only authentic evidence which we have received of the epidemic of 1873 in the State of Texas, is from the town of Denison, in Grayson,
IN THE UNITED STATES.
a northern county of the State, bordering on the Red river, which separates it from the Indian Territory.
We present two communications which we have received, and which are of interest as representing the two classes of views held upon the identity of the epidemic of 1873.
I. CHOLERA AT DENISON, TEXAS
By James Johnston, M. D.
The town of Denison is situated in Grayson County, Texas, and is the terminus of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas, and the Houston and Texas Central Railroads. It was only one year old when the cholera made its appearance. It contained at the time between three and four thousand inhabitants, who were principally emigrants from the Northern and Eastern States. The first case of cholera that came under my notice was that of Dr. Moyse, who was attacked on the morning of the 8th of August, 1873; went into collapse same evening, and died at 3 o'clock a.m. of the 9th instant.
Having to leave town on business, I did not return until the 19th September, and I learned from other physicians that few cases occurred during this interval.
About the 27th September we had some rain, and afterward heat, when it broke out with greater violence, and for the eight days following, the average deaths numbered seven to eight per day, and from the middle to the end of September the average was about four per day. Few cases occurred after this up to the latter part of October, when the last case came under my observation.
When the disease first made its appearance, the town was in a filthy state. Being a new town, crowded with a floating population, there were not sufficient improvements in the city, and the people were not so comfortably fixed as in older towns.
There was diversity of opinion among the physicians with regard to the nature of the disease, some asserting it was not cholera, and the board of health and city council, with a view of preserving the town in its prosperity, published circulars to this effect; and in order to set the public right, and establish a correct diagnosis, I wrote a paper on the subject, which appeared in the Sherman Patriot of November 1, 1873.
(A copy of the manuscript I herewith inclose.) The medical association of this county have since confirmed my opinion. I return you a list of the case, that occurred, or as many of them as I could get any account of, only a few of which I attended professionally. Some were attended by other physicians, who have since left town, and some died without medical aid.
In making up the statistical account allowance must be made for those that have been attacked and got well without any medical treatment, and that never came under the notice of the physicians, and consequently do not appear on the list.
The probable number of deaths during the epidemic amounted to eighty, and the number of those attacked (giving due allowance for those that got well without our knowledge) would be, as near as I can guess, twice that number. The fatality of the disease seemed to be in proportion to the amount of filth about the locality in which they lived, and the habits of the patients, &c., being more fatal to those of dissipated habits and those deprived of their ordinary rest and food, and those exposed to excessive fatigue. Grief and fear, on account of the
H. Ex. 95-29
NARRATIVE OF CHOLERA EPIDEMIC OF 1873
depressing effects they produce on the nervous system, have a wonderful tendency to induce an attack.
With regard to treatment, my experience has led me to the conclusion that the treatment of cholera, to be comparatively successful, must be commenced early, when the first symptoms of choleraic diarrhoea makes its appearance. I believe that a locality may be almost entirely saved from the scourge by adopting at once proper sanitary and hygienic measures; the treatment must consist more of prophylactic than curative. When the disease first breaks out, all yards should be cleaned and water-closets disinfected, decaying vegetable substances removed, &c. People should observe regular habits, eat their accustomed food, avoid undue fatigue and excessive impulses of the mind, such as grief, and fear, or great anxiety, and see that all the functions of the body are kept in proper order.
On the treatment of well-established cases, or those who have passed into collapse, I have nothing new to say, as volumes have been written on the subject. I will close these few remarks by giving my treatment of one of the worst cases I attended.
Peter Linn, an Irishman, who worked in a brick-yard, was attacked on the 29th October, 1873. I was called to see him about 7 o'clock p.m., and found him in a collapsed condition, perfectly cold, even his tongue and breath, shrunken features, husky voice; he could not speak above a whisper; he had all the symptoms of approaching dissolution. At this advanced stage I did not see any use in giving medicine by the mouth, so I made a solution of one grain of strychnia, and with the hypodermic syringe injected it at different points all over the extremities until almost half of the mixture was used up. I did this in order, if possible, to arouse the action of the nervous system and establish the capillary circulation. I saw him the following morning when the alarming symptoms had passed away; the heat of the body had returned; he took some nourishment and continued to improve, and finally got
well. He suffered a little from singultus, from the effect of the large amount of strychnia and the manner in which it was used, as the patient was a very bad cholera subject. He was a man about fifty years of age, with a very feeble constitution and dissipated habits; his digestive organs were very much impaired by drinking bad whisky. I consider the strychnia used in this way at different points all over the extremities much better than giving it by the mouth, as in such cases the stomach and bowels are almost inactive, and very little certainty can be placed on medicines given in that way, and the greater number of points it is inserted the better. In the case I mentioned I used the syringe at eight different points, all over the feet and legs, hands and arms.
[From the Sherman (Texas) Weekly Patriot, October 4, 1873.]
"We were in Denison about an hour on Tuesday evening last on our return from Saint Louis, and we were informed by two reliable citizens of that place that on the day and night previous there had been nine or ten deaths from cholera, and that considerable excitement existed, many were leaving, and business perfectly dead. On Tuesday last and night
following there were seven deaths, as we learn from Mr. Burke, who came down on Wednesday morning. The News of Denison is very silent on the subject; we think this is wrong, as the people should be fully advised.
* * * Since the above was penned, we learn from Mr. O?Bannan that there were five deaths on Wednesday, October 11.
* * We learn that up to Tuesday last there had been about thirty deaths at Denison from the prevailing disease, which has been called by some doctors cholera, and by others congestion. We learn from Mr. Munson, who came down on Monday morning from Denison, that four Deaths took place there the day and night previous.
* * * * We learn that on Wednesday and the night previous there were six or eight deaths there.
* * Governor Owings and others of that place informed us that a large portion of the population had left, probably over a thousand or fifteen hundred.
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