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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33

II.—Hints on Rinderpest

page v

II.—Hints on Rinderpest.

If the principles contained in the preceding pamphlet be correct, and sulphurous acid be destructive to all contagious morbific germs, what a weapon has Providence put into our hands (if men would only use it aright) to mitigate and prevent epidemic diseases! As Rinderpest is at present rife in some parts of the world, the following hints as to the use of this weapon may not be out of place :—

Like other contagious diseases, this terrible scourge arises from the reception into the system, and fermentation in the blood, of a virulent poison. However difficult to cure, the evidence seems encouraging that it is comparatively easy to prevent any such plague coming nigh our dwellings; all that is necessary for this purpose being to attend to cleanliness and ventilation, and to fumigate the cattle statedly with sulphurous acid gas, which is formed by burning sulphur or a sulphur pastille in the air. Indeed this is not now a mere theory, but having been practically tested in many cases, may almost be considered as an established fact. Sulphurous acid has this advantage over other disinfectants, that by absorption into the blood it proves a tonic and restorative in cases of weak vitality, and therefore many farmers use it regularly irrespective of any prevailing epidemic, to purify the blood, and bring their cattle into a healthy and vigorous condition. In warding off epidemics it seems to act both within the organism and without, by killing at once all contagious effluvia, and fortifying the system to resist their power.

Even when sulphurous acid is introduced into the system in another way, i.e., through the medium of the stomach, by administering in the form of drink the various sulphites, hypo-sulphites. or bi-sulphites, the preventive power of the antidote remains the same. Professor Polli of Milan found, by direct experiments on animals, that these salts of sulphurous acid entered the blood, impregnated all parts of the body, solid and fluid, and enabled the animals thus medicated to resist the action of septic poisons of all descriptions. As these salts owe their virtue to sulphurous acid, and not the soda or potash, etc., with which it is combined, what a powerful evidence do these experiments supply, that sulphur fumigation must prove an antidote for those septic poisons to which the virus of Rinderpest belongs!

During the late outbreak of Cattle Plague in England, and before the simpler plan of fumigation became fully known, numerous stock-owners, on the recommendation of Dr. Wilkinson of Sydenham, used as a preventive hypo-sulphite of soda dissolved in water with extraordinary success. Thus writes Mr. J. T. Noakes of Brockley Hall, Lewisham, in the Times of February 21, 1866, that he had tried this method "for four months with most perfect success. . . . . My herd consisted of high-bred short-horns, and ordinary farm-stock. The page vi disease first manifested itself among the latter, having been conveyed, it is supposed, on the clothes of a man who had been in company with infected animals on another farm where the cows all died. . . . . My herdsman treated only a portion of the high-bred animals with Hyposulphite. These, although no provision for isolation was attempted, escaped contagion, while the remaining portion of the well-bred and the ordinary stock, which had not been subjected to the treatment, all died. The specific is simply Hypo-sulphite of Soda, five pounds dissolved in one hundred gallons of water, given as the ordinary drink of the cattle. I have received letters from gentlemen who have tried this treatment by my recommendation, all of whom confirm its efficacy, etc."

Concerning this same hypo-sulphite, a clergyman near Newcastle writes me (17th April 1868),—"During the course of the Cattle Disease, the cow-keepers about here invariably used this drink, with the exception of one farmer. They all escaped; while he suffered a loss of about £600."

If saturating the blood, then, with sulphurous acid (even when introduced through the stomach) form an antidote to the poison, how much more effectual must fumigation be, which both impregnates the blood, destroys malaria in the cattle-shed, and disinfects the clothes of all attendants, and how much simpler in its application! The following extracts speak for themselves :—

Dr. Dewar writes: "Although Cattle Plague, like all other epidemics, is admittedly capricious in its course and progress, it is as reassuring as it is gratifying to be able to state that, out of scores of homesteads where the system has been, from first to last, thoroughly and determinedly practised, there has not been, as far as I have been able to learn, any case of illness, not to say of death, among cattle from any epidemic whatever."

Again, "My own cattle have been thus treated for nearly four months, four times a day, and hundreds of others likewise, to their manifest enjoyment; and many of my friends and correspondents are so satisfied of the general advantages arising from its use, that they have intimated to me their intention of continuing the practice, irrespective of the existence of any special epidemic. That exposure to the fumes directly, as well as indirectly, conduces to the animal's health, all of them admit; and the 'blooming condition' of those which have had the benefit of it, is of itself sufficient evidence of its hygienic virtues." (Pamphlet on Sulphurous Acid.)

While we seem justified in stating that fumigation, systematically and persistently practised, will certainly prevent Rinderpest, it might be rash to predict that, combined with the sulphurous acid salts internally, it will go far to cure even in affected animals. But we humbly suggest this method as worthy of a trial, as a basis of treatment, conjoined with such general treatment as the veterinary surgeon may direct. For if the disease essentially consists of fermentation in the blood, and sulphurous acid be the most powerful agent known in arresting fermentation in other matters, as wine, malt liquors, lime page vii juice, and dead meat tending to putrefaction and decay, why should not the same agent, by entering the blood, arrest a similar process there? Two facts make us hope that this plan, early and vigorously adopted, will cure Rinderpest as well as prevent it.—1. Because in fumigating with sulphurous acid for pleuro-pneumonia, where no separation was made between the healthy and diseased, instances are recorded where not only the healthy were screened from infection, but the diseased recovered by the same process as well. 2. Because an old despatch, now probably forgotten, from Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Odessa, dated 24th November 1865, mentions as a cure for Rinderpest, "Drenches of warm milk in which garlic has been boiled." Now garlic is virtually sulphur, of which element the oil is a chemical combination, and to which it owes its pungent odour; as will be seen by consulting the pages of Fownes, Lardner, and others, who, in enumerating the various "Sulphuretted Oils," include those of Black Mustard, Asafœtida, etc., and Garlic.


September 19, 1868.