Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Influenza, La Grippe and Flu Epidemics

Nadruco Products 1910. Na-Dru-Co or the National Drug Company was Canada's premiere company in the era. I have their 1911 brochure. My favourite bit: "Hysteria is a nervous condition peculiar to females and manifests itself in various ways according to disposition and temperament; paroxysms of laughing and weeping alternately, screaming, gasping for breath, trembling, clenching the hands and teeth and other apparently alarming symptoms are common and often needlessly frighten the friends of the patient. It is not necessarily dangerous, but rather a symptom of some nervous irritation or organic excitement, and is often a frequent attendant of uterine troubles."

I have re-read my rough draft of the first chapter of Flo in the City, about a young girl coming of age in the exciting 1908-1913 era, based on the letters of http://www.tighsolas.ca/ (covering 1908) and have decided to continue writing installments for 1909 while I edit 1908. (I've got the February blues but I can't just fill in with movie reviews: I reviewed Colin Firth's A Single Man yesterday in my blog and now I just have to see Crazyheart. ) Still not sure how I feel about A Single Man a movie created by a fashion person...transition :) My very next installment of Flo in the City is going to be on millinery, showing how hats are made... very technical. Maybe I'll make a hat, myself, from scratch.

Hats (and status) are going to be a central theme of this chapter for 1909. Marion and Edith go hat shopping at Ogilvy and spend way too much money on fashionable hats, money they can ill-afford to spend. Fashion can be a way for women to express themselves (and get ahead socially) but it is also a way to keep them poor.

I read somewhere that single women today aren't like the spinsters in the old days, who saved every penny, as they had no kids to take care of them in old age. Single women today,unlike in the 1910 era, can make a lot of money, but they are keen to spend it and many have huge credit card debt and no security for old age. So consumerism undermines the aims and goals of feminism. To protect women.

Edith ended up a spinster and living in genteel poverty, despite working at good jobs all of her life, but that wasn't because she spent on clothing. It was largely because she had so many medical bills to pay.

So I continue my research on the era and I found this 1910 medical book on archive.org and excerpted the bit on influenza, or 'la grippe' as it was called. The Nicholon letters of the era are full of talk of colds and 'la grippe' although I sincerely doubt that when Edith says she has "La grippe" that she had influenza. Just a cold.

In 1912, however, there appears to be a kind of outbreak, because many more people than usual are dying in Richmond (healthy people,too) and two otherwise healthy young women die suddenly at Macdonald College, where Flo is studying.

Influenza, consumption and typhoid are talked about in the letters openly. Scarlet fever and diptheria too. Mental illness is hinted at. Depression is called 'the blues' but in one letter a young man dies locally and it sounds like a suicide. Edith says, "He was such a queer boy." A local man goes missing and is found 'in the river' and that too sounds either like Alzheimer's or depression.

Here's the excerpt from 1910 Medicine book.

INFLUENZA; LA GRIPPE— Influenza is an acute, highly contagious disease due to a special germ, and tending to spread with amazing rapidity over vast areas. It has occurred as a world-wide epidemic at various times in history, and during four periods in the last century, A pandemic of influenza began in the winter of 1889-90, and continued in the form
of local epidemics till 1904, the disease suddenly appearing in a community and, after a prevalence of about six weeks, disappearing again. One attack, it is, perhaps, unnecessary to state, does not protect against another. The mortality is about 1 death to 400 cases. The feeble and aged are those who are apt to succumb. Fatalities usually result from complications or sequels, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis; neurasthenia or insanity may follow.

Symptoms. — There are commonly four important symptoms characteristic of grippe: fever; pain, catarrh ; and depression, mental and physical. Grippe attacks the patient with great suddenness. While in perfect health and engaged in ordinary work, one is often seized with a severe chill followed by general depression, pain in the head, back, and limbs, soreness of the muscles, and fever. The temperature varies from ioo° to 104° F. The catarrh attacks the eyes, nose, throat, and larger tubes in the lungs. The eyes become reddened and sensitive to light, and movements of the eyeballs cause pain. Sneezing comes on early, and, after a day or two, is followed by discharge from the nose. The throat is often sore and reddened. There may be a feeling of weight and tightness in the chest accompanied by a harsh, dry cough, which, after a few days, becomes looser and expectoration occurs.

Bodily weakness and depression of spirits are usually prominent and form often the most persistent and distressing symptoms.

After three or four days the pains decrease, the temperature falls, and the cough and oppression in the chest lessen, and recovery usually takes place within a week, or ten days, in serious cases. The patient should go to bed at once, and should not leave it until the temperature is normal (98^° F.)for some time. Afterwards general weakness, associated with heart weakness, causes the patient to sweat easily, and to get out of breath and have a rapid pulse on slight exertion.

Such is the picture of a typical case, but it often happens that some of the symptoms are absent, while others are exaggerated so that different types of grippe are often described. Thus the pain in the back and head may be so intense as to resemble that of meningitis. Occasionally the stomach and bowels are attacked so that violent vomiting and diarrhea occur, while other members of the same family present the ordinary form of influenza. There is a form that attacks principally the nervous system, the nasal and bronchial tracts escaping altogether. Continual fever is the only symptom in some cases. Grippe may last for weeks. Whenever doubt exists as to the nature of the disorder, a microscopic examination of the expectoration or of the mucus from the throat by a competent physician will definitely determine the existence of influenza, if the special germs of that disease are
found. It is the prevailing and erroneous fashion for a person to call any cold in the head the grippe; and there are, indeed, many cases in which it becomes difficult for a physician to distinguish between grippe and a severe cold with muscular soreness and fever, except by the microscopic test. Influenza becomes dangerous chiefly through its complications, as pneumonia, inflammation of the middle ear, of the eyes, or of the nose or kidneys, and through its depressing effect upon the heart.

These complications can often be prevented by avoiding the slightest imprudence or exposure during convalescence. Elderly and feeble persons should be protected from contact with the disease in every way. Whole prisons have been exempt from grippe during epidemics, owing to the enforced seclusion of the inmates. The one absolutely essential feature in treatment is that the patient stay in bed while the fever lasts and in the house afterwards, except as his strength will permit him to go out of doors for a time each sunny day until recovery is fully established.

Treatment. — The medicinal treatment consists at first in combating the toxin of the disease and assuaging pain, and later in promoting strength. Hot lemonade and whisky may be given during the chilly period and a single six- to ten-grain dose of quinine.

Pain is combated by phenacetin,* three grains repeated every three hours till relieved. At night a most useful medicine to afford comfort when pain and sleeplessness are troublesome, is Dover's powder, ten grains (or codeine, one grain), with thirty grains of sodium bromide dissolved in water. After the first day it is usually advisable to give a two-grain quinine pill to gether with a tablet containing one-thirtieth of a grain of strychnine three times a day after meals for a week or two as a tonic (adult). A powerful medicine suitable to keep the bowels regular as a Seidlitz powder in the morning before breakfast. The diet should be liquid while the fever lasts — as milk, cocoa, soups, eggnog, one of these each two hours. A tablespoonful of whisky, rum, or brandy may be added to the milk three times daily if there is much weakness.

The germ causing grippe lives only two days, but successive crops of spores are raised in a proper medium. Neglected mucus in nose or throat affords an inviting field for the germ. Therefore it is essential to keep the nostrils free and open by means of spraying with the Seiler's tablet solution , and then always breathing through the nostrils.