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March 27, 1943

NOTES ON PUERPERAL FEVER, 1843-1943: COMMEMORATING THE CENTENARY OF HOLMES'S ESSAY "ON THE CONTAGIOUSNESS OF PUERPERAL FEVER"

Author Affiliations

Director, Division of Health Services, Children's Bureau, U. S. Department of Labor WASHINGTON, D. C.

JAMA. 1943;121(13):1006-1007. doi:10.1001/jama.1943.62840130003009
Abstract

One hundred years ago a 33 year old American physician, Oliver Wendell Holmes, convincingly described for the first time in this country the contagiousness of puerperal infection. His evidence, painstakingly pieced together from reports published both in Europe and in the United States and from his own observations in Massachusetts, was presented with an eloquence which even he never surpassed in his extensive writing in later years:

... The disease known as puerperal fever is so far contagious as to be frequently carried from patient to patient by physicians and nurses.

... it would seem incredible that any should be found too prejudiced or indolent to accept the solemn truth knelled into their ears by the funeral bells from both sides of the ocean—the plain conclusion that the physician and the disease entered, hand in hand, into the chamber of the unsuspecting patient....

This long catalogue of melancholy histories assumes a still

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