CLAIM IT IS CHICKEN-POX
Residents Of Clay City Indig-
nant Over Dr. Hurty’s Report.
Details of Some of the Cases-All of
the Persons Attacked Recovering,
and None Causing Alarm.
To the Editor of the Indianapolis Journal:
In your issue of Jan. 16, space is given to a sensational article headed, “In an Epidemic Form,” in which many conditions are reported that are without foundation, and, in fact, there are but few statements that have even the shadow of the reality about them. First, it is stated that the disease appeared only a few days ago in a small mining town of six or seven hundred inhabitants. Now, I do not believe in suppressing any real facts regarding this epidemic, and the people of Clay City are not only willing, but anxious that the true facts be made public. What we do object to is such sensational, false and seemingly malicious articles, as the Journal published Jan. 16. Therefore, we wish the commonwealth of Indiana to be apprised of the real facts and ask the Journal to give a public a place to this article as was given the damaging falsehood in the issue of Jan. 16.
The facts are as follows, and every statement can be supported with unimpeachable affidavits: Clay City is a thriving little city of from two thousand to twenty-five hundred inhabitants, and the disease which exists here has been in epidemic form since October. Herbert Wiltse, a boy some ten or twelve years old and a son of W. C. Wiltse, an attorney, attended a street fair in Washington, Daviess county, and was attacked with an eruptive disease soon after his return. Dr. C. H. Wolfe was called, and, after a careful examination, pronounced the case chicken-pox in a light form. This is the first recorded case. Some are reported weeks before where no doctor was called. The disease spread rapidly, both among young and old, some having considerable fever and chill, while others experienced no inconvenience whatever.
Pardon me for referring to my own family, but in it I can show the working of the disease. On Dec. 12, 1899, my daughter, Ruth, aged twelve years, was attacked with headache, chilly sensations and some aching of the body. On Dec. 16 she was completely broken out, and as soon as the eruption appeared the fever abated and never returned, and she felt no more inconvenience, except from the itching sensation.
On Dec. 29, Emma Hayman, a domestic in my family, was taken very much in the same manner, and the history of one case very closely fits the other. On Jan. 1, 1900, our babe, then nine days old, broke out thickly with the disease, but if she was ever sick or had any fever from it we failed to detect it, and as far as we could judge she experienced no inconvenience until the scaling off, when she was fretful until we would anoint her body, showing plainly that itching was the only trouble. When the babe was only eight days old my wife was attacked with chill and fever of extremely short duration, then the eruption. Of these four cases, three had had chicken-pox and my wife had been successfully vaccinated. This is the history of 99 per cent of the cases. Vaccination does not affect it and the fact that one has had the chicken-pox cuts no figure.
In the Journal of the 16th it was said “the local Board of Health became alarmed and telegraphed Dr. Hurty.” I personally interviewed the board, and Dr. Modesitt, who is the secretary, stated positively that the board had not sent for the state secretary at all.
The local physicians have not been, and are not now, in the least alarmed. It was also stated that “many of the cases have assumed the confluent form, which proves beyond doubt the identity of the disease.” In fact, there has not been a solitary case of the confluent form, and we defy Dr. Hurty to show to any intelligent physician who has had any experience whatever, a confluent case. We admit that some of the cases have been very thickly broken out, but the pustules have not in a single instance united their contents, or, in other words, there has been no confluence of the eruptions. There has not been a case where the least concern has been felt as to the prognosis.
It was also stated that “when the citizens became aware that it had been diagnosed smallpox they became frantic and began packing their effects preparatory to leaving the town, but they were too late, as the quarantine was too strict.” This is erroneous in each and every particular. I think I am safe in saying that 90 percent of the inhabitants ridicule the idea of smallpox and hoot at Dr. Hurty as an “alarmist and fake.” If there has been a solitary case of fright it has failed to come to light. Some indeed declare they will not stay at home. Others believe the infected houses should be quarantined, but in no case has any fear been displayed. The statement of a quarantine is also untrue, as none exists and none has been ordered. On the day of the issue in question a public election was held in Clay City for the purpose of voting on the appropriation to the C., B. & T. H. Railroad. If a strict quarantine existed think you a public election could be indulged in?
You state that all mails are disinfected. That is also false, as postmaster C. C. Fesler had heard nothing of it until the evening of Jan. 17, when I asked him regarding it. Dr. Hurty did not even advise the quarantining the members of families where the contagion exists, but said to Dr. H. C. Wolfe to let them go about their work unless they themselves were attacked.
Dr. J. N. Hurty came here, visited a few cases and pronounced it not smallpox, but modified smallpox. Dr. Wolfe asked what he meant by modified smallpox, and what do you think his answer was? It was this, “I don’t know.” Dr. Wolfe said, “Our people have not been vaccinated to any extent, and therefore vaccination has not modified the disease, and that is the only modifier I know of for smallpox.” All the worthy official Dr. Hurty would say was it was modified smallpox, and when the local physician asked regarding the accepted medical authorities he said, “Unfortunately that is their mistake, and they will have to take that out of their books.” In his estimation Dr. J. N. Hurty is the only authority. Now, when Hurty comes out to teach the local boards, why does he not give a reason? Why does he not treat the local physicians with some respect? At the depot he stated that Dr. Wolfe and Dr. M. A. Freed had never seen smallpox, when it is a patent fact that four of Dr. Wolfe’s cases, treated some years ago, were discussed with him by Dr. Wolfe. He also said Dr. Modesitt and Dr. Freed admitted their mistaken diagnosis and were now convinced that it was smallpox. Neither made any such admission and Dr. Freed said to me last night in an interview “I think yet, just as at first, that it is chicken-pox.” Have the people of Clay county any right to doubt Dr. J. N. Hurty as authority? The people of Clay county have no confidence of his diagnosis of disease, but we are willing and anxious that each infected house be strictly quarantined and no member be allowed to leave the premises until a “bill of health” is granted by the Board of Health.
We also do not want our local physicians to follow the example set by Dr. J. N. Hurty. He visited cases of the disease, and, with only washing his hands in some disinfectant, went to the school building, then filled with children, also to the Free Methodist Church, also in session, in the same clothing and not disinfected, also to the hotel and thence to other towns. We want our physicians to use every precaution. We also wish to say to the Journal, do not publish such articles as the one in the issue 16th inst. Unless you can substantiate them. You have done our little city an injustice which you cannot wipe out. Dr. J. N. Hurty, if he used the statements accredited to him, has well nigh criminally falsified regarding the epidemic.
Dr. Wolfe said to me, “Say in your article it is not smallpox, but chicken-pox. Dr. Hurty can, because of his office, make me do as he says, but until he produces some authority and some argument he cannot make me believe the disease is other than chicken-pox, and I have treated smallpox and I have had varillold fever.” Dr. Freed stated “I think now, as at first, it is only chicken-pox.” Both physicians favor isolation of families where the contagion exists.
W. E. SMITH
Clay City, Ind., Jan. 18.
[Everything that has been published in the Journal concerning the smallpox scare at Clay City was based upon information furnished by the State Board of Health. – The Editor.]
IN VANDERBURG COUNTY
Nine New Cases of Smallpox Have
The State Board of Health received word yesterday of nine new cases of smallpox in Vanderburg county, which were said by the local health officer to have appeared since the first of the month. The board also received word that there were many new cases in Clay county, one or two cases of which are said to be very serious.
The fact that the disease has broken out again proves conclusively that the quarantine regularions are not closely observed. Dr. Hurty said that the disease was now prevalent in fourteen counties of the State, which includes the counties of Greene, Washington, Jackson, Clay, Noble, Vigo, Vanderburg, Delaware, Madison, Sullivan, Owen, Posey, Floyd and Clark.
Dr. Hurty received word yesterday from Washington county that the quarantine had been raised in that county, as the disease had been thoroughly stamped out by a rigid inforcement of the quarantine laws. The State Board of Health is doing every thing possible to master the epidemic and Dr. Hurty said yesterday if the infected districts would help themselves by observing the quarantine regulations it would not be long before the disease would be under control.
“Claim It Is Chicken-Pox,” The Indianapolis Journal (Indianapolis, Indiana), 19 January 1900, p. 8, col. 4-5; digital image, Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ : accessed 6 December 2014).