This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Some people have assumed that the yellow fever is caused by vegetable germs generated in the atmosphere. It is very remarkable that no one seems to test the supposition, and decide positively whether it is or not so. When the celebrated horse disease was progressing through the country, such a theory was conjectured in relation to that malady, and then found to be a demonstrable fact. Moistened glass was exposed to the atmosphere before the disease appeared, and after it had arrived; and in all cases, on the glass in the latter case was discovered by pow-ful microscopes a minute fungus called Aspergillus and the same was found in the mucous discharge from the nostrils of afflicted horses. There could be little doubt that the Aspergillus initiated the horse disease. It is quite likely that some such minute body is connected with the yellow fever, but why not try whether it is so or not by systematic observations? In a New York paper recently, Mr. Peter Henderson points out that many forms of fungoid matter are destroyed by light doses of the fumes of sulphur that are not particularly injurious to the higher order of animal life; and if this disease is of this nature, relief may be sought for in this direction.
It is worth more than a passing thought when Mrs. Ingram, of Nashville, tells us that in many places of every ten fever patients that go under a doctor's hands eight die. In New Orleans one-third die. There is certainly room for discovery.
Since writing the above, we note by the New Orleans papers that sulphur fumes have been most throughly tried, as well as other things, with no perceptible result.
One of the most valuable experiences is that of the steamer R. O. Stannard, which went from New Orleans to St. Louis and back. The captain appears to have had an idea that by strict, popular precautions he could get through all right. He had the strictest attention given to cleanliness. The vessel was washed with sulphur white wash, fumigated thorougly with tar and sulphur, and chloride of lime used freely, and the precautions were continuous, and careful. No better chance could offer for testing these precautions than in an isolated vessel like this, but the plague swept through his vessel as elsewhere.
The fact is we do not yet know that the fever poison is certainly furgoid germs, and this matter, as we have already stated is the first thing to be ascertained.
The whole subject interests horticulturists, of all others in the community, because the loca-cations of our houses and the sanitary surroundings are among the first to be decided by the landscape gardener; and then again the knowledge which horticulturists have to gain of the working of minute forms of plant and animal life may be of good service in tracing out the origin of the plague.
The commissioners appointed by the government to investigate the matter, are no more likely to discover the cause than similar commissions have done, and their recent circular shows that they are not likely to do much. The twenty-five questions they have sent out for answers, remind us of some sent out by agricultural societies when they wish to find out which of the new fruits are best adapted to general cultivation. The answers will be more conspicious for what they do not tell, than for what they do.