1902 Encyclopedia > Plague > Plague - Incubation. Treatment. Prevention. Prevention of the Spread of Plague.

(Bubonic Plague; Black Death; etc.)
(Part 7)

Plague - Incubation. Treatment. Prevention. Prevention of the Spread of Plague.

Plague - Incubation

It is a very important question what time may elapse between a person receiving the poison and showing symptoms of the disease. The usual time of incubation appears to be from three to five days. In certain very malignant epidemics this period may be shortened, and, it is though, reduced to even less than a day. In rare cases may be prolonged to eight days. There are doubtful accounts of ten days incubation. Generally a week’s observation [Footnote 163-2] would show whether a suspected person was really affected or no. It has been though that articles contaminated by contact with plague patients may retain the power of communicating the disease for weeks, months, or even years ; but of this there is no adequate proof.

Plague - Treatment

No special line of treatment has proved efficacious in checking the disease once established. Special symptoms are treated in accordance with the ordinary rules of practice, and need not here be considered. Free ventilation appears to be of the greatest service in preventing the spread of the disease, and probably in promoting recovery.

Plague - Prevention

There can be no doubt whatever of the efficacy of hygienic measures in rendering a locality unsuitable for the spread of plague. Such measures include, not only personal cleanliness, but specially the removal of all foul matters, good drainage, and prevention of overcrowding ; all such measures might be looked upon by readers generally as matters of course, but are quite unknown in most of the homes of plague. Since there is no doubt that plague may be carried from places where it prevails epidemically, measures to prevent such importation cannot be neglected. The best known of such measures is the system of quarantine first produced about 1480. See QUARANTINE. The efficiency of quarantine has been much discussed, and very strong opinions have been expressed for and against it. The subject is too large for discussion here ; but it would appear that, while the system as originally applied in the Mediterranean, when traffic was comparatively slow and infrequent, and when European cities presented an extremely favourable soil for plague if introduced, was a real protection, the regulations have long ceased to correspond to the actual state of medical knowledge ; and, in, addition, it would be impossible to apply them to our crowded traffic. The alternative is a system of medical inspection of all arrivals in our ports, and strict isolation of ships in which plague has occurred or is suspected. Such a ship should then be treated as an infected house.

Prevention of the Spread of Plague

When cases of plague have once occurred in a town or on board a ship in port, the house or ship should be emptied of its inhabitants, the sick removed to a hospital, the sound placed is an isolated building and subjected to observation for at least a week, or better, ten days. The clothes of sick persons had better be burnt, their bedding and furniture completely disinfected. The house should in the meantime be rigidly closed until it has been disinfected. If these measures are taken in time, there can be no objection to allowing free emigration of the population. Isolation of the place by a "sanitary cordon" would only be possible in very exceptional positions, and as a rule would aggravate, by overcrowding, the intensity the disease within.


163-2 Prus, Rapport, p. 196.

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