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To the Honorable the Governor and the
Executive Council of the State of Maine : The undersigned, Commissioners appointed by the Governor to proceed to Massachusetts and inquire into the character and extent of the alarming disease prevailing there among cattle, and the means to be employed for its prevention or extirpation, have attended to the service assigned them, and respectfully
REPORT: That we find the disease called Pleuro-Pneumonia existing in some of the herds of Massachusetts; that it was introduced thither by means of cattle imported from Holland by Winthrop W. Chenery, Esq., of Belmont, and which arrived on the 29th of May, 1859. Two of the four animals thus imported died soon after arrival ; one was noticed to be ill about the 20th of June and died in nine days after-the fourth is yet living. Some time in August another cow in Mr. C.'s herd became sick, and died in about a fortnight, and in the course of the two subsequent months he lost about thirty head of cattle by the disease. Veterinary surgeons were called in from time to time, and the mortality was, at first, ascribed to want of proper ventilation; which was, undoubtedly a serious cause of aggravation, but the true nature of the disease was not discovered until November, when Dr. E. F. Thayer, a skillful veterinary surgeon, on visiting the herd, at once, and unhesitatingly pronounced it to be the disease known in Europe as PleuroPneumonia ; and here we may remark that this name appears to be an unfortunate one, inasmuch as it conveys to those familiar with the term, a false as well as a true idea of its character; true, in that both the lungs and pleura are diseased, and false, because this disease differs essentially from pleuro-pneumonia proper, as hitherto known both here and abroad, and in both men and in brute animals, and which is a less fatal disease, and is not contagious.
Mr. Chenery's farm is so situated that very little communication has existed between his cattle and those of others, but on the 29th of June, the very day on which the cow died which Mr. Cheenery believes to have been the first victim of the disease ; (the death of the first two he ascribes to injuries sustained during the voyage ;) he sold three Dutch calves to Curtis Stoddard, a young farmer of North Brookfield. On their way thither in the cars, one was noticed to falter ; soon it became quite ill, and Mr. Leonard Stoddard, father of Curtis, took the calf home with him to care for it, and placed it in a barn in which he hept forty head of cattle. It grew worse, and in a few days the son took it back, and in about ten days it died. In about a fortnight the disease appeared in the herd of Leonard Stoddard, and one after another of his animals sickened and died. In November, and for reasons independent of the disease, young Stoddard sold the larger portion of his herd, reserving nine of the most valuable animals. This sale scattered eleven in various directions, which carried the infection wherever they went, and one of them is said to have infected more than two hundred others. Without a single failure the disease followed these cattle.
A yoke of oxen from the herd of Leonard Stoddard was employed in a team of twenty-three yokes gathered from various quarters to move a building from Oakham to North Brookfield. One pair of these oxen has, since then, so changed owners that it has not been traced, and nothing is known of its fate; but in every other instance it is known that the animals took the disease.
Without dwelling upon numerous other cases in which contagion can be traced with equal distinctness, it is sufficient to say, that no case is known to have occurred where communication with diseased cattle cannot be traced; and it is believed that nowhere in Europe has there been an opportunity of obtaining so convincing evidence of its contagious nature as in Massachusetts.
As with all other contagious diseases, both among men and brutes, some individuals are found to be less susceptible to the contagious influence than others, and some are not affected by it at all; and doubts have arisen in the minds of several European writers on this point, the weight of opinion being, however, very strongly in favor of its contagious nature; but we submit that the facts in Massachusetts are such as to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. We find the disease to be not only contagious, but insidious and deceptive, malignant and fatal. Insidious, inasmuch as it often creeps upon an animal so stealthily that it is difficult, and some
times impossible, to fix with any accuracy the date of the attack. Deceptive, in that, in animals which have had the disease and may be fairly presumed from appearances, to have recovered, one or both lungs have been found, on slaughtering them, to be little else than a mass of disease.
That it is both malignant and fatal unhappily needs no proof. Nearly one thousand animals have already fallen victims, either to the disease, or to the efforts made with a view to its extirpation; and more than an additional thousand are either known to be sick, or from having been exposed are under the ban of suspicion. It is not true that the distemper is universally fatal, for not a few survive which have been its subjects; but it is not yet positively known that even one has been absolutely cured. They often come to eat well, drink well, and thrive tolerably; thus exhibiting the ordinary characteristics of health, and yet, a post mortem examination has, within our own observation, shown how utterly fallacious were all these indications in such a case.
Regarding the term of incubation, and of propagation, or the length of time which elapses between exposure and the appearance of disease; and also during what period the animal is capable of conveying the disease to others, we greatly regret our inability to arrive at definite or satisfactory conclusions. In some cases the disease is apparent within ten days after exposure; in others, twenty, thirty, sixty, ninety days or even more, are supposed to elapse. One case is reported where the exposure was seven months previous. The more usual period appears to be not far from twenty days. When the capability of the animal to convey disease to others begins or ends, we have no knowledge. This is a most important point, but all we know is, that it may and does do so before any symptoms of illness appear; and, as the lungs of some which have been slaughtered exhibit evidence of the later stages of the disease in one portion and of the earlier in another, there seems reason to fear that the term may sometimes be indefinitely prolonged.
As already remarked, this lung murrain, or by whatever other name it be called, is of the most insidious nature. Any disturbance of the animal's health is rarely noticed until the disease is fully established, and effusion into the chest has made some progress. The ordinary rule, that not much ails an animal until it refuses to eat, does not hold good with this disease. The early symptoms are so faint and obscure as to excite neither anxiety nor attention.
By-and-bye the animal gets a dull and dejected look; if at pasture, it may be found in the morning apart from the herd; the back arched, the fore legs rather wide apart, the hair staring, a little uneasy and don't eat well; but later in the day, it looks better, joins the herd and eats as usual. A slight, but husky cough is occasionally heard, and sometimes quicker breathing, as if from extra exertion. If a cow, the milk diminishes, accompanied with heat and tenderness of the udder.
As the disease progresses, the eyes look duller, the head is lowered, the nose protruded, the cough more frequent and husky, the appetite lessens, rumination is suspended, the limbs and surface cold, the skin tight over the ribs, the spine becomes tender, and pressure upon it, or between the ribs, produces evident pain. As the disease approaches an unfavorable termination, the breathing becomes fearfully laborious, and is accompanied with moans and sometimes with grunts; the eyes sink, the extremities cold, the mouth is covered with froth, the strength fails, and the poor beast falls and dies; or, if the animal is to recover, the severity of the symptoms abate, it looks better, eats some-if a cow, the milk returns, the hair becomes sleek, &c.
Percussion and auscultation furnish the most reliable means of judging, in the living animal, of the state of the disease. Upon striking with the ends of the fingers upon the affected side, a dull sound is usually elicited, proportionate to the consolidation of the lung, or to the presence or absence of fluid in the cavity of the chest. Upon applying the ear to the sides of the chest, one or the other, and sometimes, though rarely, both are found to be affected. The various sounds cannot be easily or exactly described, but a practised ear will judge with great accuracy between the natural murmur of healthy lungs, and the different sounds recognized in the several stages of the disease.
In what manner, and through what channel, the disease enters the system--whether it makes its attack directly upon the solids, or begins by corrupting the blood,—these and other kindred points, are at present, matters of pure conjecture.
With regard to the treatment, little of a satisfactory character can be offered. The severity or mildness of the attack and its termination, whether favorable or fatal, may, not improbably, depend more upon the susceptibility of the individual, and upon the amount or intensity of the contagion taken into the system, than upon any treatment bestowed.
Whether subjected to a course of medication, or trusted wholly to the recuperative powers of nature, some will recover in whole. or in part, but we have little reason to believe that any will so recover as to be secure from a second attack, or to become able bodied and sound, or valuable for the ordinary purposes for which domestic animals are kept. Considering the probable unsoundness of those which survive, bearing also in mind the exceeding importance of active and healthy lungs, and the expense necessarily involved in the treatment and isolation of those which are lost, as well as those which are saved, the conviction is forced upon us, that attempts to cure this disease will rarely, if ever, pay. We may remark, however, that couNTER IRRITATION, by diverting diseased action from the vital organs to the surface, promises beneficial results, and the application of highly stimulating liniments, blisters, setons and the like, is understood to have been of more service than aught else.
The appearances after death vary greatly, but there are usually extensive adhesions; consolidation of a portion of the lung tissue marked by a peculiar marbled appearance, is one of the most striking and uniform accompaniments of this disease. In some cases an immense cavity is found in one of the lungs, and, enclosed in that cavity or cyst, a cheesy substance or lump, having no attachment to, or connection with, the adjacent lung. In others, the process of detachment had not been fully completed. Some lungs were found to be so hypertrophied as to weigh three or four times as much as in health, and in one the estimated weight was from fifty to sixty pounds!
As, in our present relation to this disease, we deem prevention to be of incomparably greater importance than either a knowledge of the symptoms attending it, the treatment best adapted to mitigate its results, or the morbid appearances presented after death, we will not longer dwell upon these, but rather urge the importance of arousing at once to a prompt appreciation of the magnitude of the threatened calamity. If once it becomes naturalized among us, we may never again expect immunity from its attacks. When once fairly established, either here or elsewhere, its seeds may remain, even after apparent subjugation, and whenever the necessary conditions present themselves, it may break out again with fearful violence.
Our only safety lies in keeping clear of it, and we urge the utmost vigilance upon every individual, and upon all competent authori