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Report on the Outbreak of Typhoid in Camps at Jacksonville, Fla., by Lieut. Col. L.M. Maus, U.S. Volunteers, Chief Surgeon Seventh Army Corps

Spanish - American War

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REPORT ON THE OUTBREAK OF TYPHOID IN CAMPS AT JACKSONVILLE, FLA., BY LIEUT. COL. L. M. MAUS, UNITED STATES VOLUNTEERS, 

CHIEF SURGEON SEVENTH ARMY CORPS

Dated August 22, 1898

I have the honor to state that we have quite a large number of cases of typhoid fever undergoing treatment in the three division hospitals of this corps. A large number of these cases, in my opinion, resulted from infected water in the various State camps from which regiments were sent. I am, however, of the opinion that a great many of them originated around and about Jacksonville also. The water system of Jacksonville is artesian, and may be regarded as excellent. It is saturated with sulphureted hydrogen when coming to the earth*s surface, but this gas soon evaporates, leaving the water very pleasant to drink. Unfortunately, around the suburbs of Jacksonville are a large number of surface and driven wells. Many of these wells are but from 18 to 20 feet deep, and are located close to the habitations of the people who use this water. The soldiers going out on drills and target practice, etc., frequently, I have been informed, use water from these wells. I believe that this may account for a great many of the infected cases. Then, again, time milkmen who live in the suburbs rinse their cans in this water, and at times leave some in the cans, which mixes with the milk, and this probably is productive of typhoid infection.

One company of the First Wisconsin has suffered considerably from typhoid. This company was located on the main street, over which was hauled the fecal matter by the scavengers at night. It is believed that a good deal of the fecal matter splashed out on the road and was absorbed by these men, who were sleeping near by, through the medium of the dust, which probably was infected. The First Wisconsin has suffered more than any other regiment here in regard to the number of typhoid cases.

Of course a great may cases would naturally occur in a Southern climate, because, in my experience, I have always found that men sent South in midsummer are liable to become enervated and more susceptible to fevers than the natives. A part of these cases were of a very malignant type and proved to be fatal. Autopsies, as a rule, have been made and exposed ulcerations and perforations in some cases.

One company of the Second Illinois ate on the 29th of May a lot of tainted meat, and within ten days or two weeks thereafter a large number of cases of typhoid fever appeared in that company. It would seem as if the ptomaine poisoning in some way made these men susceptible to the typhoid poisoning. This company enjoyed the same surroundings as the others, and there is no way to account for this large number of typhoid-fever cases except in the way indicated. I will also state that many of these men were quite ill for a week or ten days after eating this meat, suffering from gastrointestinal irritation.

The regiments of the Second Division have been removed to fresh camping grounds, and everyone is more keenly alive to the necessity of looking after the sanitary condition. Of course, medical officers can not accomplish all that is necessary single-handed, and it is very difficult at times to have their suggestions carried out by those in command.

I have recommended to the corps commander that small pavilion hospitals, made out of rough lumber, be constructed near each division hospital, with a capacity of 100 beds, for the treatment of the serious typhoid cases. I desire that these men shall receive every care, and for this reason have asked that these buildings be constructed, so that they can get regular hospital treatment. I also believe it for the best interests of the service that we should have a number of trained female nurses, as well as male nurses, to care for these cases. It is very likely that we will have more fever cases during the month of September than at


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present, as that is the most sickly season of the year here, and I wish to prepare for any emergency. I, therefore, would like to have at least 60 well-trained female nurses sent here within the next week, and hope that Dr. Brien, who has gone North to get male trained nurses, will be successful in getting 100 of them.

I intend to make requisitions for bath tubs on wheels, in order to give them the tubbing process, because I believe that better results can be obtained from that method of treatment than any other. It is almost impossible to give patients tub treatment in hospital tents, especially when there are six or more patients in each one. I am glad to say that we are getting along here very nicely. Barring the large number of typhoid-fever cases we have practically very few sick men.

The three division hospitals have been in operation for a long time and seem to have given general satisfaction. It is not to be expected that everybody will be satisfied, and hence there has been a good deal of criticism from various sources, emanating from women and others who are not capable of appreciating the difficulty of caring for the sick in the field. I believe our division hospitals are far ahead in every way of what was contemplated in the original orders by the War Department, I have had furnished to the hospital, in addition to what is supplied by time Government, pajamas, nightshirts, sheets, mattresses, pillows, electric fans, foods of all sorts; in fact, hundreds of dollars have been spent on the division hospitals of this corps in addition to what was allowed by the Government.

I wish to thank you for your generous support in granting me everything that I have asked for. I wish to state that nothing of any moment has been refused me that I have asked you in regard to providing for the sick of this corps.