Infectious fevers are diseases due to the entrance of microbic germs into the body. Each fever is caused by a distinct special germ, which gets into the body in various ways, and there multiplies during the period of " incubation." During this time the germs are hatching in the blood, and when they have accumulated to a certain extent, at the end of perhaps ten or fourteen days, the special symptoms of the particular fever develop.
These germs may get into the body by the stomach-as, for example, when typhoid or cholera is contracted by drinking water, or when scarlet fever and tuberculosis are spread by milk. Germs may find their way into the throat, and be inhaled into the lungs, or they may find their way into the system through the skin. Some infectious fevers are more easily transmitted than others. Scarlet fever, for example, is very " infectious," because it is easily passed from a sick person to another by the clothing, drinking utensils, food, etc. Diphtheria, on the other hand, is more correctly called " contagious," because some degree of close contact is usually necessary before the disease can be passed from one person to another.
Fever is divided into certain marked stages:
1. There is the period of incubation, following upon the entrance of poison into the system, when the germs are multiplying, as has already been said, or hatching.
3. During the period of eruption the rash appears.
The chief infectious fevers are scarlet fever, measles, German measles, typhoid, typhus, smallpox, chicken-pox, whooping cough, mumps, diphtheria, erysipelas. When these diseases occur in outbreaks they are said to be epidemic, and it is only by careful isolation of patients contracting an infectious fever that epidemics can be prevented. Anyone in charge of a fever case has a vast amount of responsibility resting on her shoulders. Upon her depends, not only the safety of the patient, but the safety of many other people, who may contract the disease if the nurse is in the slightest degree careless and irresponsible. If mothers would study some of the commonest infectious ailments of childhood, they would be able to diagnose these conditions in the early stages. Thus a doctor would be summoned earlier than is generally the case. The child would be isolated, and the risks of infection spreading considerably reduced. Later will be considered the signs and symptoms of the various infectious fevers, and also their mode of spreading. Meantime it will be sufficient to say that if a child shows symptoms of definite illness, such as headache, sickness, sore throat, and fever, particularly if a rash is present, he should be isolated at once.
If he is to be nursed at home, no person should be allowed in the room except the nurse in charge of the case. The window of the bedroom must be kept open day and night, and the fireplace should never be blocked up. Before putting the patient into the room, the best plan is to remove all curtains, ornaments, pictures, unnecessary furniture, as well as the carpet. Have nothing in the room except what is required for the patient's use and comfort. At the door of the sick-room a sheet, kept wet with one in twenty solution of carbolic acid, should be hung. After the room has been cleaned and washed with a disinfectant fluid, and thoroughly aired and dried, the patient may be put to bed, with a fire burning in the grate, the window open, and the bed protected from draughts by screens. During the illness a carbolic spray may be used in the room, and a disinfectant should be freely employed for all toilet dishes, in order to minimise the spread of the germs excreted by the patient. In very small houses it is almost impossible to keep a patient efficiently isolated, and unless one person can attend upon the patient, and prevent any communication with the rest of the household, it is much wiser to have the case nursed in hospital. Cases of measles and whooping cough, however, are generally nursed at home, and if proper precautions are taken, there is no reason why the disease should spread further than the original case.
The following rules must be strictly observed: 1. All dishes used in the sick-room must be reserved for the patient's use. A cup or tumbler that the patient has drunk from is a real danger to everyone else, even if it has been thoroughly washed in hot water. Only boiling water will destroy the germs of infectious disease.