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JAMA 100 Years Ago
June 17, 1998


Author Affiliations

Edited by Brian P. Pace, MA, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 1998;279(23):1862L. doi:10.1001/jama.279.23.1862

An English practitioner refers to the fact that many cases of typhoid fever occur in the autumn, and attributes the cause of the disease to games, such as marbles and peg-top, which are played in the street during this time of the year after the cricket season is over. In playing marbles a boy frequently licks his fingers to prevent the marble slipping, and the whip-cord of a top is wet in the mouth for the same reason. In this way germs are conveyed into the alimentary tract. The writer's theory is borne out by the fact that the disease almost exclusively affects boys; girls do not as a rule play at games of that kind. Some weeks ago he saw a boy with typhoid fever, was asked by his parents how he accounted for the attack, as there was no case in the same street, and so asked the mother to let him see the trousers worn by the boy, and showed her how stinking the pockets were; they contained marbles, etc., and dirt from the street. These games may therefore be a great source of danger to children living a town life. But how to remedy the evil is not very easy while such crude methods of doing town scavenging work is permitted to continue. In his own city of Sheffield, he says that he has seen the contents of yard-vaults shoveled out into the streets or roadway in large heaps to be carted away afterward, but leaving behind remainders lodged between the stones of the road, upon and near which the open-air games of boys are daily practiced. He had thought it advisable to point out this source of danger to the young, as he had not as yet seen any mention of games in any paper or book. Contaminated water in his opinion is not the only source of typhoid and other filth fevers among boys.

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