Monday, 28 September 2015

Cow-dung and water

In appendix no. 1 of the Army Medical Department Report for the year 1871 there is a very interesting report about hygiene.  It has a section on the spread of cholera which mentions the latest discussion in Germany about that disease.
There are many views on how cholera is spread and Pettenkoffer replied to another doctor about his own changes of opinion “and believes such changes to be inevitable with everyone.  He rates our knowledge of Cholera low, but wishes to define his present views as carefully as he can.” 
I was particularly struck by the following incident 
 “On the 20th November a man named Doolla died of cholera, as was subsequently ascertained. …the discharges had flowed on the earthen floor of the room in which he died; this floor had been cleaned, it was said and washed with cow-dung and water.  On the 26th November, a burial feast was given in this room by his brother.  The food – rice, lentil, ghee, sugar and spices all of good quality – was cooked in this room on the previous day and night and the moist and hot rice was spread on an open mat laid on the earthen floor….The feast took place at midday on the 26th November, and a few hours afterwards there was an outbreak of cholera among those who attended.”

The full report can be found in the Army Medical Department Report for the year 1871 in the House of Lords Parliamentary paper session 1873 vol. 34.