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January, February and March. It is probable that as many deaths occurred from small-pox in these three months as in the twelve months of 1872. But from about the first of April a rapid subsidence of the disease was apparent, and after the first of June the general epidemic may be said to have ceased. In certain towns it is known to have lingered for several subsequent months ; notably in Holyoke, where it prevailed, chiefly among the children of French Canadians and Irish, until September.
From September 6th to the close of the year, not a single death from small-pox has been reported to us from the cities of the State. Judging from the present immunity of London, Paris, New York, Philadelphia and other great cities which suffered severely in their turn, it is not unreasonable to suppose that we may be spared another such experience for some time to come, and possibly for a very long term of years.
The peculiar disposition to receive the disease, the liability to take it which, in utter ignorance of real causes and obserying only its effects, the medical profession calls the "epidemic influence” may recur again next year or may be postponed for half a century, but if it comes in the present generation it will find the people better vaccinated than ever before. The protective power of vaccine has been proved beyond all question, and the absolute need of careful vaccination is equally evident. The requirement of re-vaccination at least once after mature life is reached is also very generally admitted.
It is our duty to call attention to a special report on smallpox in the town of Spencer in the present volume under the head of " Health of Towns." A terrible mistake seems to have been made by a member of the medical profession.
The circumstances attending the death of one of the victims were the subject of inquiry before the grand jury and no bill of indictment was found, but we think the evidence presented by our reporter is enough to convince the reader that small-pox was directly propagated.
We regret to put on record this shocking occurrence, but if it teaches caution in dealing with virulent poisons, and the utmost circumspection in the practice of vaccination, this public statement may be productive of increased safety to the community.
The efficient action of the board of health (the selectmen) of Spencer in the exigency they were called to meet is worthy of all praise.
ASIATIC CHOLERA. As soon as it became certain, in June last, through our correspondence with the health authorities of cities in the Southwest, that cholera was prevailing within the United States, the following letter was sent to the board of health of every city and town of Massachusetts and was also published in the daily newspapers of Boston :
To the Health Authorities of the Cities and Towns of Massachusetts :
At a meeting of the State Board of Health, held on the 11th instant, the undersigned were authorized to issue a circular concerning Asiatic cholera, whenever circumstances should seem to require it. Information has been received from trustworthy sources that a disease presenting all the usual signs of cholera is now prevailing at several points in the Mississippi Valley. We may, therefore, not unreasonably expect it to appear in Massachusetts during the present summer. Experience has proved that Asiatic cholera is fostered by filth, and repelled by cleanliness. All measures which secure to a community purity of air and of water, tend not only to prevent the appearance of this scourge, but to diminish the mortality from other diseases which are always present during the summer and autumn. We would, therefore, advise the health authorities throughout the State to prepare without delay, to meet this unusual danger by removing all accumulations of decaying matter in privies, cesspools, drains, cellars, yards and streets, by the free use of copperas or other equally effective disinfectants in vaults and drains; by guarding all sources of water-supply from defilement, even in the most remote degree, by human excrement; by removing the occupants of cellars, and by giving to the whole population the enjoyment of such safeguards for health as they are powerless to secure except by public authority.
There is no cause for any interruption to the usual occupation or diet of the people, or for any public alarm, but every reason for increased vigilance on the part of the boards of health of cities and towns to see that epidemic cholera shall find no foothold within the territory under their charge. In behalf of the State Board of Health,
(Signed) HENRY I. BOWDITCH, M.D.
GEORGE DERBY, M.D. BOSTON, June 20, 1873.
Happily the disease did not reach our borders. It is not known to have passed east of the Alleghanies. Whether it will re-appear with the summer heats remains to be seen, but it will be quite in accordance with the previous history of this epidemic if it should revive in the Western cities and reach us in the present year. The duty of removing every form of filth from within and about our dwellings, which should always be kept in mind by boards of health, becomes, in view of the very possible re-appearance of cholera, more imperative than
EXCAVATIONS IN CLAY LANDS. The attention of the Board has been called by the selectmen of the town of Medford to certain excavations which have been made in clay lands for the manufacture of bricks. These have been visited and the following facts observed : On the grounds of the Massachusetts Brick Company there are pits, covering many acres, from which the clay has been removed to a depth of forty feet. These pits are full of water, and steam-pumps are required to free them so that the work of excavation may still proceed. The bottom of these pits is apparently below the level of Mystic River and tidewater. On the territory occupied by the Bay State Brick Company a similar state of things was found. Excavations of very great extent may here be seen extending over an area of from ten to twenty acres, and of a depth of at least thirty feet, and partially filled with water, which is held securely by the clay. The bottom of these pits is apparently below the level of the tide, and consequently undrainable by gravitation. There are other and similar excavations in Medford and other towns where bricks are made. Some of them were made long ago; the surface is now covered with grass, and buildings have in some instances already been put on these treacherous holes.
We believe this subject is one eminently worthy of legislation in the interest of life and health. The present danger is very considerable, from the liability of persons not aware of the existence of these holes walking into them in the nighttime and perishing miserably. We are informed that lives are thus sacrificed every year in Medford. But this immediate and present danger is insignificant in comparison with the certainty that whoever shall occupy dwellings in a sunken territory, whose soil is clay, will sicken and die. If anything is proved in sanitary science, it is the unfitness of an undrainable clayey soil for human residence. These lands are within four miles of the state house; a dense population is destined to press upon their immediate neighborhood within a few years, and unless their occupation for dwellings is in some way made impossible, we shall soon see a needless sacrifice of health and of life.
We would suggest that the owners of such sunken lands, whether excavated by themselves or their predecessors, should be compelled to raise them to a grade which will permit them to be thoroughly drained before using them, or permitting their use for the erection of dwellings.
SEWERAGE OF THE METROPOLITAN DISTRICT. It is our duty to again call the attention of the legislature to the urgent need of a comprehensive plan for the sewerage of the whole metropolitan district. The various municipalities bordering upon the Mystic, Charles, and Neponset rivers have each their separate plans of discharging sewage into the streams and estuaries which meet the ocean at Boston, and the result of this complicated and inharmonious system is greatly endangering public health. We regard this question of drainage for Boston and its immediate surroundings as of an importance which there is no fear of overstating. The death-rate of the city proper has for several years been so high as to occasion the most serious concern, and in looking for its causes none are more probable than the imperfect discharge of liquid waste from our sewers and the rapidly increasing foulness of the shallow estuaries into which they open.
The whole subject is in need of immediate investigation by competent engineers.
THE LAW CONCERNING "SLAUGHTER-HOUSES AND NOXIOUS
AND OFFENSIVE TRADES.” The great powers which were committed to the Board under this law by the legislature of 1871, have been exercised during the past year in several instances, as follows:
1. Samuel F. Woodbridge, of North Cambridge, beef
slaughtering. (Ordered to " cease and desist.”)
2. Horatio Locke, of North Cambridge, beef-slaughtering.
(Ordered to " cease and desist.”) 3. Frank Goldrop, of North Cambridge, bone-boiling.
(Ordered to "cease and desist.") 4. Ransom C. Taylor, of Worcester, bone-boiling. (Or
dered to cease and desist.”) 5. Horace P. Holt of Andover, slaughtering. (Ordered
to " cease and desist,") 6. R. N. Anderson, of Worcester, copperas factory. (Case
dismissed, owing to defects in the petition.) 7. N. Ward & Co., of Boston, bone-boiling. (By mutual
agreement between the petitioners, the Boston Board of Health, and Messrs. N. Ward & Co., this hearing was postponed, in order that the sanitary management of the works at Spectacle Island should be com
mitted to the Boston Board of Health.) 8. J. P. Squire & Co., Cambridge and Somerville, hogslaughtering and rendering. (No decision in this
The law of 1871 concerning noxious and offensive trades, chapter 167, General Statutes, has now been in operation nearly three years, and it may be expected that we should report to the legislature concerning its effects, in so far as we are able to trace them. The law in question was passed without consultation with this Board or any of its members. The general intent seems to have been to give to local boards of health in towns and cities of more than four thousand inhabitants, complete control of premises occupied for noxious and offensive trades; these can neither be built nor enlarged without the written consent of the mayor and aldermen, or the selectmen. The complete management of such establishments is secured by this form of license. But when from any cause this direct control by the local health authorities is found to be insufficient to secure freedom from offence, application may be made by any parties aggrieved to this Board, who are given authority, after a hearing, to order the closure of the offending establishments, and the supreme judicial court is charged with the duty of enforcing these orders, if need be.