This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
The plague is a very malignant fever, of a putrid and contagious nature, in the progress of which, extreme debility, buboes, carbuncles, petechiae, hemorrhages, colliquative diarrhoea, and other typhoid symptoms arise.
The disease attacks persons of all ages and both sexes; but women, young children, and infants at the breast, in general resist the contagion better than men of robust habit. Those who were exposed to heat and cold, such as bakers, cooks and smiths, were noticed to be particularly liable; and in all epidemic plagues, terror and anxiety, filth and defective nutriment,fatigue and hurry, anger and intemperance of every description, have acted as predisposing and exciting causes.
In some eastern countries the Plague is wholly unknown, especially in Persia and Japan. In Egypt the winter and early part of the spring is the season in which the disease is most virulent; towards the end of spring, as the weather increases in warmth as summer approaches, the epidemic gradually subsides. At its first appearance, which is usually in November, it assumes its most deadly form, and those affected by it sink into the grave almost without complaint. A damp state of the atmosphere is said to favour its production; and Baron Larrey observes that the Plague puts on a more formidable appearance during a continuance of the South winds, than during the winds from the North and North-east. When the latter prevailed its effects diminished; and, if it continued for any time, the disease disappeared altogether. On the return of the South winds, it appeared again with as much violence as ever. He noticed that the disease rarely attacked wounded men whose wounds were in a state of plentiful suppuration, but, as soon as the wounds were skinned over, a great many were seized, and few escaped death.
Attempts have been made to diminish the virulence of the disease by inoculation, after the manner of small-pox inoculation, but the experiment does not appear to have been very successful. Dr. Whyte, during the time the disease raged at Rosetta, inoculated himself. The attempt failed twice; the third proved fatal in three days after the symptoms showed themselves. And "a Russian surgeon, who was a prisoner at Constantinople, with a number of his countrymen, took it into his head to inoculate these unfortunate men with the Plague, under the supposition of rendering the disease less destructive; but by doing so he killed two hundred of these prisoners; and, fortunately for the rest, the inoculator, after having performed the operation on himself, soon died of his own treatment."
Anointing the body with oil has been strongly recommended as a preventive to catching the plague. It was stated that among upwards of a million of inhabitants carried off by the Plague in tipper and Lower Egypt, during the space of four years, he could not learn that a single oilman, or dealer in oil, had suffered. It is also stated that when the Plague raged in London, above two hundred years ago, the dealers in pitch, tar, and tobacco were particularly observed to escape the contagion.
Those who wish to study the subject, preparatory to making a journey to the East, may consult "Dr. Russell's History of the Plague, as he saw it in Aleppo;" "Sir James McGrigor's Medical Sketches;" Sir Arthur Brooke Faulkner's Account of the Plague which occurred at Malta in 1813;" "Desgenette's Histoire Medical de l'Armee d'Orient;" and Assalini's description of the malady as he witnessed it when in attendance upon the French army in Egypt.