Diphtheria and Filth.
Nbt long ago there occurred at Newport, R. 1., the deaths of six persons in a family of eight, within fifteen days, all dying of malignant diphtheria. So remarkable an invasion of a dangerous disease naturally aroused the attention of the authorities, and the Mayor of Newport properly employed Col. Geo. E. Waring, Jr., as Sanitary Engineer, to examine and report upon the condition of the premises. From this report we learn that the cottage is healthfully situated, with a cellar under all of the main portion, but there is a small addition, one storey high, outside of the main foundation ; this is used as a rear entrance, and contains a sink and a water-closet, and is only separated from the rest of the house by a thin board partition. The sink, in frequent use, had an imperfect trap, and this and the water-closet emptied into a cesspool which had not been cleaned out for several years. All this was bad enough, but this addition, or scullery, was raised upon brick piers, about two feet above the surface of the ground, with the space beneath closely boarded. In this space was the leaden pipe from the water-closet, connecting with an earthenware pipe leading to the cesspool. Sea-weed had been at some time used around these pipes to keep them from freezing. The examination showed that, through some cause, whether by frost, corrosion, or the gnawing of rats, the lower bend of the leaden pipe, leading from the water-closet, and which was intended to serve as a trap, had broken through, and the deposits of the water-closet, instead of being carried off, in good part oozed through the hole in the pipe, and spread themselves over the soil and sea-weed, under this addition, for the extent of a square yard or more. How this state of affairs could have existed and not aroused attention, it is not necessary to discuss.—This is what was found ; six children are dead, and it is no stretch of the probabilities to connect the one with the other. It is not offensive matter of this kind alone that' is to be found near houses, in both city and country. Many a house with a fine front yard has a faulty kitchen drain. Nor is diphtheria the only is favored by such conditions ; typhoid and other fevers may be directly traced to the want of proper care in carrying off the wastes of the house—too often country-houses. The case of this Newport family is a distressing one, but if it will arouse a general attention, all over the country, to this matter of house draining, and this shall lead to remedying all defects in the disposal of the waste materials, the calamity will not have been in vain.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 281, 1 March 1881
Diphtheria and Filth. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 281, 1 March 1881
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