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A document I cite in chapter one suggests insects as a cause of yellow fever and other diseases. Rush, of course, had other ideas.

The copy I use comes from the Philadelphia Gazette of 4 August 1802:

From the American Daily Advertiser:

Mr. Poulson,

Reading your extract from "Recollections relative to Egypt," published this morning, has induced me to communicate the result of some enquiries I made some time since concerning the yellow fever, plague, &c. I have long been of the opinion those diseases were produced by minute insects depositing their eggs in the pores of the human body, and that the critical days were occasioned by the changes of the insect from the egg to the maggot, from the maggot to the torpid crisalis, and from thence to the fly, at which time it deserts the body leaving its shell, which must be thrown out by perfuse perspiration or death will ensue; warm baths are known to be of great service by (perhaps) assisting nature in discharging the cause of the disease: As I am but an observer of nature it is not necessary to enter further into the subject - neither is it at this critical moment necessary to dispute upon the cause from whence springs this evil so justly dreaded by our citizens - whether from gases or the "living cloud of pestilence," already have I said enough to bring upon me a living cloud of diplomatic gentlemen.


Not a butcher or butcher's boy has had a louse in their heads, or any other species of insects on their bodies since they attended the markets regularly!

During the last fever, not one butcher died who attended market constant!

The lamplighters have not been infected with any kind of vermin, since they commenced that oily occupation!

Not a single lamplighter died during the last fever, although exposed to the night air, and particularly to the disease! whereas, nearly all the silent watch were taken off.

I believe it is currently known, that none of the oil or colour men died in London during the plague. What are we to infer from the foregoing? that oil is a preventative, and perhaps a cure. Insects breath throught their sides, consequently a small quantity of oil destroys them.

In the holy scriptures we notice the practice of anointing with oils, and those countries were subject to malignant diseases, occasioned by a superabundance of animal life. "Oils were poured into the wounds of the afflicted" witness the Samaritan; religious customs were established by a wise administration, for useful purposes, and I have not the least doubt but this was one. What is the principle ingredient in all our salves? is it not oil? Butter will immediately remove warts.

I therefore would recommend constant use of olive oil at our tables, bathe frequently and annointing with this inoffensive substance, the superabundance may be wiped off with a coarse towel, this mode will not be disagreeable or expensive, cannot do any injury, may prevent and possibly even cure the disease. Is it not worthy of some tryals?


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