This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Family Doctor" book
Consumption has existed in the world as long back as history records anything. It is found in every part of the habitable globe. It has been a plague upon the earth in all times. It is a disease of the poor, and flourishes best among those in the lowest walks of life. In the United States upwards of a hundred thousand people die of it annually, and throughout the civilized world there are at least a million deaths a year from the disease. We are apt to form our ideas about its prevalence by the death rate from consumption. This does not give a true picture. Many people die of tuberculosis and the death is recorded under some other name. Many people are, moreover, crippled by the disease without dying. Some of the names under which consumption parades are marasmus, meningitis, scrofula, inanition, peritonitis, Potts disease and white swelling. It often appears even under other names, such as typhoid fever, pneumonia and pleurisy. Many of the misshapen people whom we see on the streets have been made so by tuberculosis. Nearly all spinal curvatures are due to this disease. Some of the horrible disfigurements of the skin are due to lupus which is caused by tuberculosis. Some of the insanities are due to this disease. In reality the death rate which is recorded under the head of consumption gives but a very faint picture of the toll which tuberculosis levies upon the human family. Our insane asylums, orphan asylums, almshouses, houses of refuge, reformatories, prisons and penitentiaries shelter many of the indirect results of tuberculosis, and give some indication of what this disease costs the human family. How Tuberculosis got into the World.
The question is often asked how did tuberculosis get into the world? As a disease it probably came through the sin of man. It is not, however, due to providential intervention, as many formerly believed, but is the natural result of the working out of nature's laws. We now know that there are in nature millions of micro-organisms of various kinds which have to do with the changes going on in nature all the time. What we know as saprophitic micro-organisms change dead organic tissue into inorganic tissue. They break up those things which had life, and which for one reason or another have ended their usefulness in death, into inorganic substances so that the elements can again go back to nature to be taken up as food by the living things which are still growing and developing. In this way the chain of change from organic to inorganic tissue and from inorganic to organic tissue is kept up. The probabilities are that the tubercle bacillus originally was one of these innocent micro-organisms which gradually acquired the power to grow on living tissue through the debasement of that tissue by man when he failed to live up to the laws of nature. Even now the individual who keeps himself perfectly well, lives in the open air and eats only the things which he ought to eat can resist tuberculosis. When, however, through dissipation, through overwork, through improper housing or through any offense against the laws of good health he puts his tissue below par, his cells become a ready prey to the tubercle bacillus. In time by evolution this bacillus has acquired the power of attacking living cells and this no doubt is how tuberculosis came into the world.