TYPHOID FEVER AND WATER SUPPLY.
SOME interesting facts were brought to light by Professor W. P. Mason, in a paper recently read by him,entitled “ Sanitary problems connected with municipal water supply.” In it he refers to the betterment in the health of many American cities—especially in the matter of the decrease of typhoid fever since the water supply has been improved. According to Prof. Mason, the yearly rate of death from typhoid in thirteen cities of Massachusetts before a public water supply was introduced was 7.94 per thousand. After the introduction of the public water supply,it fell to 3.83 per 10,000. In the same way and owing to the same cause, the percentage of deaths from typhoid in the whole of the State of Connecticut had fallen from about 5.8 in 1870 to 1.84 in 1893. All this is, of course, very encouraging; but the end of the typhoid plague is not yet in sight. To say nothing of the fact that in too many towns and villages there are not even the rudimentary beginnings of a public water supply (either municipal or managed by a private corporation), and that the residents in those districts depend altogether upon wellsor streams,often of contaminated water running through their midst—many the recipients of the sewage and drainage of other villages and houses on their banks above—and that of the large cities in the United States no few take no steps to filter the water they supply, by no means sufficient care is taken to guard against other sources of pollution and, therefore, of disease. A pasture field, for instance,is a most innocent thing to look at. Yet it is very frequently from such a field that much of the contamination results. Prof. Mason tells of one such field in which were pastured twenty-six cows. Through it runs the open watercourse which connects the storage and distributing reservoirs of a city, and in this stream the animals have perfect liberty to wade within a few yards of the point where the water enters the city’s mains. 11 is not to be wondered at that such water contained disease-germs, or that those germs reappeared at intervals, even after the cows had been removed for some time. In this connection,it must not be forgotten that severe frosts do not destroy those bacteria—they can survive and be as virulent and deadly as ever, even after they have been exposed to continuous freezing for three months. A case in point is a disastrous outbreak of typhoid which took place at Plymouth, l’a. This was traceable to the dejecta of a single typhoid fever patient, which had been thrown out upon the snow of a hillside, at the base of which ran a small stream — the source of the town’s water supply. Both the snow and the surface of the hillside were frozen hard, and continued in that condition for several weeks before the thaws of March washed the infected excreta,with the melting snow,into the stream below. In the dejecta were the typhoid germs, which, notwithstanding the intense cold and continuous freezing to which they had been subjected, retained their vitality and their poisonous properties—the result of which was that outbreak of typhoid fever for which the health authorities were at first unable to account.