Dr. Hurty Receives Word From
The Postmaster at Lesterville Has
Smallpox and Is Still at Work –
The smallpox situation in Clay county has excited the attention of the government authorities at Washington. Late yesterday afternoon Dr. Hurty, secrety of the State Board of Health, received a telegram from Gen. Walter Wyman, chief of the marine service at Washigton [sic], stating that the government would disinfect the mails at all points designated by the Indiana Board of Health. The telegram received was in reply to a message sent by Dr. Hurty to the authorities at Washington, informing them that the postmaster at Lesterville had smallpox and was continuing in the performance of his duties, with an utter disregard of the fact that he might be spreading the contagion all over the United States.
Yesterday reports were brought in from Washington county by Dr. Ferguson, who was sent to investigate rumors of smallpox. He says that the disease is prevailing to an alarming extent and he earnestly advised Dr. Hurty to establish a rigid quarantine. The authorizes at Clay City advised the State Board of Health yesterday morning that many of the citizens of the town were escaping to other towns despite the strict measures of quarantine in force. Dr. Hurty immediately telephoned Dr. Davis, the president of the board at Richmond, advising him of the situation and asking that a meeting of the board be called.
In speaking of a communication in one of the afternoon papers from the citizens of Clay City in which they express themselves as being highly indignant of Dr. Hurty for causing such excitement throught the State over the smallpox situation, when in reality the disease is very mild, resulting in no fatalies, Dr. Hurty said that is was not the policy of the State Board of Health to wait for fatalities before taking action, and the citizens of Clay City would have to abide by the action of the board.
Cases of Smallpox Reported.
Special to the Indianapolis Journal.
TERRE HAUTE, Ind., Jan. 17. – Several cases of what is believed to be the same disease, thought to have been chicken-pox at Clay City, but declared by Dr. Hurty to be smallpox, have been reported north of town. The persons afflicted came from Clay City, and the symptoms of their disease are the same as in the hundred or more cases reported at Clay City.
Clay City Is Not Excited.
To the Editor of the Indianapolis Journal
An undue amount of excitement has been caused by the published reports concerning the prevalence of smallpox at this place. The News of yesterday says: “Residents of the town are almost panic-stricken, but the quarantine prevents them from escaping.” It also states that the population of the town in 700, and that the disease had attacked nearly a third of the population. There has been no excitement here. There has been no quarantine, and people have not tried to escape. There have been between 200 and 300 cases, beginning with the early part of the fall. The physicians have treated for chickenpox and cured every case. We have a population of about 2,500, instead of 700. Many of the patients never went to bed or even quit work.
The Journal’s informant was in error when he stated that “when the citizens of the town became aware that the disease had been diagnosed as smallpox, they became frantic with fear and excitement, and many rushed home and began packing their effects, with the intention of escaping from the town but they were too late. Acting under the instructions of Dr. Hurty the officials immediately began the enforcement of the quarantine laws and no citizen who had come in contact with the disease was permitted to leave.” The utmost freedom prevails as to the coming and going of our citizens – no person being denied the privilege of going where he pleases. No one has heard of any person attempting to get away on account of Dr. Hurty’s announcement. The disease, whatever it is, is not half so severe as many cases of vaccination. There have been no fatalities from the disease.
A great injustice has been done our town by these exaggerated statements, and in order that the public may know the true condition of affairs your informant offers the above correction, without denying any official statement by Dr. Hurty. Our physicians report no cases of the confluent form.
Clay City, Ind., Jan. 15
“Will Disinfect Mails,” The Indianapolis Journal (Indianapolis, Indiana), 18 January 1900, p. 4, col. 7; digital image, Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ : accessed 6 December 2014).