The Public Health: How To Avert A Plague 1857

268 Deaths by Small-Pox in the city since Jan. 1, '57
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How is the health of the City? What are the prospects for an epidemic? Is anything being done to avert the yellow fever which was so near last year to breeding a panic, at least in the Metropolis? These questions are on everybody's lips, for the discussion of Quarantine matters, the perpetual recurrence of the difficulty of getting the streets cleaned, the reorganization of Boards of Health, and the overhauling of nuisances by them, naturally suggest the topic in its most practical bearings.

As to its public Health, the City was seldom in better condition. Only 372 deaths were reported last week, a decrease of 53 from the mortality of the week proceeding. In the list of diseases which caused these deaths, those which are apt to be swelled into epidemics in Summer time, as yet keep in the background. Thus of diarrhea there were only four, and of dysentery only three, while the principal causes of death were those sturdy agents or mortality which never flag, never cease gathering full lists of victims. Of consumption, however, only 37 died, (an unusually small number) by infantile convulsions, only 18; by scarlet fever, 90; by marasmus of infants, 29; of measles, 10; by croup, 6.

There is no more emphatic testimony however as to our inexcusable carelessness of life and health than is seen in the fact that 14 persons died last week of small-pox. Looking back to the first of January, we see that since that time 268 of our population have died of this loathsome disease, while if we took only such precautions as every Christian people ought to take it would be a rare thing to report a single case of it. The following table shows the deaths by small pox for each week since the year opened:

Week Ending

Jan. 3.
Jan. 17.
Jan. 31.
Feb. 7
Feb. 14
Feb. 21.
Feb. 28.
March 7.
March 14.
March 21.
March 28.
April 4
April 11
April 18
April 25
May 2
May 9
May 16
May 23
May 30
June 6
No. of Deaths


Total from Jan. 1.........................268

Yet no intelligent person is ignorant of Jenner's perfect preventives and vaccination which, properly done and often enough repeated, is an unfailing preventive, is gratuitously performed in all the Dispensaries, and for some months of every year all the dead walls are faming with posters urging people to go up and be vaccinated without charge.

The Brooklyn Board of Health has been in daily session for some days, not because the presence of disease demands their sessions, but because the season is suggestive to prudent people. Less fearful of losing votes than metropolitans, they have already allowed their noses to lead them straight into the presence of some outrageous nuisances, and today, doubtless, they will take prompt action for their abatement.

It was suggested in the City Inspector's Office on Saturday, that the Board of Health of this City ought to organize and take the street cleaning into its hands. There seems to be no other way of getting the streets clean while the present stupid Common Council continues its present suicidal and murderous course refusing to take the slightest action even in reference to the contracts without which action no parties can undertake the necessary work. It will not be long at the furthest before very hot weather will be upon us. In a very few weeks, if the streets remain unswept, it will become impossible to disturb them without the danger of uncovering in every filthy alley a source of infection and poison. The streets must be cleaned soon or we will be under the necessity of living the Summer through on a dunghill, which it would be death to disturb. If there is a decent appearance of humanity in the Common Council, they will take definite action tonight in this matter.

Meanwhile private citizens, owners of property along Broadway, have agreed to give Mr. R.A. Smith $425 a week to have that world's thoroughfare swept from Union-square to the Bowling-green every twenty-four hours for the next fortnight, by the machine-sweepers. Operations commenced last night. The City Inspector has ordered his assistants to help Mr. Smith all they can.

No yellow fever has yet appeared in the bay. The buoys are to be anchored today in the lower bay to point out the riding ground of infected vessels. We are happy to learn that, following our suggestions, the Health Officer is having constructed a great scow, lined with iron, and fire-proof, on which hereafter all infected bedding and other combustibles, which a perfect overhauling of infected vessels will require them to be rid of, will be burned up with fire, instead as heretofore, of being thrown overboard to be drifted into some cove or on some beach, to prove, under favorable circumstances, a point of departure for fatal fevers.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Public Health: How To Avert A Plague 1857
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


New York Times Jun 8, 1857. p.1 (1 page)
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