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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Health Notes.

Edited by H. Laing Gordon, M. D.
Volume 10, 1899, pg. 53


[Our readers will greet this new departure with interest. We believe that with Dr. Gordon as Editor, our monthly "Health Notes" will be found most useful to Parents.--Editor "Parents' Review."]

"It thus appears that at present an enormous stream of infective milk is pouring into our cities and that the matter is truly one of urgency."--(From an address by the Medical Officer of Health for Manchester at the Sanitary Institute Congress, 1898.)

This is a graphic and alarming statement. Our concern is scarcely lessened on finding that the speaker referred to only one disease--tuberculosis; for that disease is protean, its best known manifestation being consumption of the lungs. There is no longer any doubt that tuberculosis may be communicated from animals to man, and that the chief channel is the milk from tuberculous cows. We are face to face with the unpleasant fact that we all incur a serious risk. Milk laden with infective matter from tuberculous cows is daily being received into hundred and hundred of households irrespective of social conditions or other considerations.


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This fact may be demonstrated by a simple proceeding which has been frequently carried out. In Manchester, for example, 93 samples of milk were taken. In over 18 per cent. of these tubercular infective matter was found. The 93 samples were traced to their origin in 17 farms. One cow at least with visible evidence of tubercular disease was found on each of 14 out of the 17 farms.


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It is very easy to say that this state of affairs must be prevented. But it is a gigantic task, affecting many interests. There are signs that before long our legislators will imitate the example of other countries and make it a matter for State interference. But meanwhile the poisonous stream continues. We must therefore act for ourselves. We must insist that we be supplied with milk from healthy cows only,--i.e., from those which have successfully passed through what is known as the tuberculin-test, which often reveals unsuspected disease; and we must be satisfied that the cows are kept under such conditions as reduce to a minimum the possibility of these animals becoming unhealthy.


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It is well not to be satisfied with the attractive illustrated circulars issued by large dairy companies. The magnitude of the business carried on by these dairies renders it an impossibility for all their customers to be supplied from the nicely photographed cows and cowsheds at the "model farm." A large proportion of the milk comes from cows kept in the old-fashioned way by owners having a contract with the dairy company. It is necessary to ascertain whence the particular milk supply comes. Then it may be only a pleasant cycle ride to obtain personal knowledge of important facts.


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Public opinion, manifested in this manner, would stimulate the dairy companies, and urge our Government towards the proper regulation of this most valuable of all food-supplies. Whereas in other and poorer countries this has already been done, we have scarcely emerged from the Parliamentary Commission stage.


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If, however, we cannot find a dairy in which we have perfect confidence, there are certain measures to which we may trust. We must search for some means of destroying the living germs of tubercular disease in the milk. This is completely accomplished by complete boiling of the milk. But there are many objections--real and imaginary--to boiled milk. It is unfortunate that the process of boiling unpleasantly alters the taste of the milk. We do not wish to mal such an every-day food distasteful to children. By >simple household sterilisation--not the sterilisation of the laboratory--this objection, and with it practically all the others, is obviated.


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The ordinary steriliser (Aymard's, of Ipswich, is a good example) is acceptable to the most crotchety cook. Without being actually boiled, the milk is raised to a temperature inimical to the life of the tubercule and other germs. The taste is not altered. The value of the milk as a food is not decreased, and no scum should be formed. Every delivery of milk may be thus quickly rendered sterile at once and set aside, carefully covered, until required. Milk treated in this manner is certainly pleasanter to drink than the bottled sterilised milk on sale in some quarters.


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But sterilisation on account of tuberculosis is unnecessary if it can be scientifically guaranteed that the cows are free from disease, and that the milk has not been contaminated en route from the farm. When adequate preventive measures have exterminated the disease amongst cattle, we shall have the pleasure of a glass of raw milk restored to us.


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This question is something much more serious than the periodical "germ-scare" which we find in the daily papers. It is an appalling thought, that out of the thousands in this country who annually fall victims to one or another form of tuberculosis, the majority have been infected, directly or indirectly, by the milk supply. But the mere recognition of this fact opens up the splendid possibility of checking the disease at its chief source, and the more remote possibility of entirely exterminating tuberculosis in both animals and man.