WATER AND EPIDEMICS.
Yellow fever is again making tearful havoc in Memphis, and, as other Southern cities are threatened, there is great apprehension lest the disease should prove even more fatal this year than it did last, Memphis is deserted, business is almost entirely suspended, all who were able to do so having abandoned their homes and their occupations and fled from the approach of this terrible destroyer. These refugees have sought safety in northern cities, and, as a consequence, yellow fever has betrayed itself where they have sought refuge. In New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and other cities there have been isolated cases of the disease, sufficient to awaken keen anxiety for the safety of those cities. While it is scarcely probable that any northern city,will be afflicted as Memphis has been with yellow fever, it is yet possible, under favorable conditions, for the disease to obtain a foothold, and to rage as violently as it has in that fated city. It is but a few years since yellow fever visited Brooklyn with fatal effect, finding its victims chiefly in those streets where poverty abounded.
The best authorities upon sanitary conditions are of the opinion that the appearance of yellow fever at Memphis this year would have been avoided had proper attention been paid to purifying the city after the disappearance of the disease last year. It has been demonstrated that low sanitary conditions in hot climates are most favorable to the spread of yellow fever. Indeed, this and all other epidemics have their origin in unhealthful surroundings, and are attracted to and spread freely in those localities that are notoriously filthy and abound in poisonous exhalations. When cholera has visited this country it has found a foothold first in the most filthy localities, and has taken its victims mainly from the tenement houses and abodes of the poor, where the laws of health are comparatively unknown and the observance of cleanliness not specially regarded. In all cities there are tenement districts that abound in filth, and are, consequently, especially liable to deadly epidemics. New York and Brooklyn have many such localities, where the air is laden with the poisonous effluvia arising from the sewers, gutters, Uncleanly and overcrowded habitations, and the thousand and one causes incidental to densely populated localities. That these conditions exist is not so much the fault of the occupants of these districts as it is of the city authorities. Those who live in tenement houses lack the means, even if they had the intelligence, to provide the necessary means for preserving cleanly and beautiful conditions. The municipal authorities are responsible for the enforcement of proper sanitary measures, and when they neglect to adopt those measures which experience and science declare to be necessary for the preservation of life, they assume a most fearful responsibility.
The great remedy for unhealthful conditions is water. With an abundant supply of water, so that each family and each individual can use all that they desire, and enough so that the streets may be washed frequently, and the gutters and sewers flooded every night, there would be little danger of contagious diseases even in the tenement-house districts. Yet, with the Atlantic Ocean at our doors and a magnificent river on either side of the city, New York is criminally deficient in her water supply. We have had occasion frequently to call attention to this lact in commenting upon the danger to which the city is exposed from conflagrations, but this is trifling compared to the peril to which we are exposed from epidemics. What New York needs is the Holly system of water works, which shall bring salt water into our streets in abundance, so that the hydrants may be opened at will and allowed to run without danger of making a short supply. With the Holly system our streets could be washed nightly, the sewers and gutters flooded and kept clean, and a supply furnished to every house so that all closets and drain-pipes could be kept clean and sweet. Not only would the Holly system serve as an almost absolute prevention to epidemics, but it will give us a protection against fire that we can obtain in no other way. We are glad to see that some of the daily papers are taking up this subject, and urging the introduction of salt water for fire and sanitary purposes. Every city and village in the land should have an abundant supply of water, and the cost of water works will speedily be amply compensated by a greater degree of healthfulness and increased facilities for extinguishing fires.