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JAMA Revisited
September 22/29, 2015

Current Comment: Counting the World’s Cost

JAMA. 2015;314(12):1298. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.12000

Originally Published September 25, 1915 | JAMA.1915;65(13):1117.

In these days of nearly world-wide conflict between nations, it is reassuring and comforting to know of one campaign in which all civilized nations are allies in a common cause. The neutrality of science has been a subject of frequent comment, especially during the past year.

The fight between the human race and disease is carried on without regard to diplomatic agreements or international boundary lines. Probably the only organizations or institutions in existence today which are carrying on their work regardless of warring nations are those engaged in scientific work. Of these, the International Office of Hygiene in Paris is perhaps the most conspicuous example. The British representative, Dr. R. W. Johnstone, now acting as official epidemiologist of the international office, has just issued a report showing the progress of plague, cholera and yellow fever throughout the world, as shown by the reports received and tabulated at the Paris office. This report is complete for 1913, the 1914 material having not yet been completed. According to this report, bubonic plague prevailed to some extent in 1913 in almost every part of the world, there being as yet no evidence that the present world-wide epidemic of this disease, which started about twenty years ago, has begun to subside. A marked decrease was shown in India, where, in 1911, there were 846,873 deaths from this disease, while in 1913 there were only 217,148. On the other hand, the reports for 1914, so far as received, show an increase. Cholera was also less prevalent in India in 1913 than in previous years. There were no serious epidemics of yellow fever during the year in any part of the world. As the London Lancet well says, in commenting on Dr. Johnstone’s report, these annual summaries possess more than a passing interest. They place on permanent record many facts, the true value of which is more likely to be recognized in the future than at the present time. They will be of service as works of reference to future students of bubonic plague, when the great pandemic now prevailing has spent itself and disappeared. The same remark holds good as regards cholera and yellow fever, both of which may before long, we hope, come to be placed on the list of disappearing diseases.