February 11, 1864, Thursday 
DeWitt County Public & Central Transcript


Having spent some sixteen or eighteen years of our life among the drugs, whenever we hear of any strange disease, we naturally feel some curiosity to know what it is, as well as a desire to ascertain what treatment should be instituted to effect a cure.

Hearing that a singular disease, denominated ‘cold plague,’ prevailed to an alarming extent in this neighborhood, and that it defied the physician’s skill, we have been at no little trouble [to] get its diagnosis and determine what it really is.  From all the information within our reach, its symptoms warrant the opinion that it is nothing more or less than epidemic erysipelas, a disease which appeared in several of the New England, Western, Northwestern and South Atlantic States in ‘42, ‘43 and ‘44, and other periods, under the names of ‘spotted fever,’ ‘black fever,’ and ‘black tongue.’  It also occurred in Europe at various times.

Some years ago the newspapers were filled with accounts [of] a destructive disease, to which, from its prominent symptoms, the above names were given and which proved to be epidemic erysipelas.  The disease was of different grades of violence in different places, being sometimes so mild that nearly every case recovered, in others so deadly that more than half of those attacked perished.   It did not uniformly put on the appearance of erysipelas.  In some places most of the cases were of this character, in others not more than one in six, or even a smaller proportion, the affection of the skin being replaced by some internal inflammation, generally of the mucous- or serous tissues that sometimes also of the parenchyma of the organs, especially of the lungs.

The disease is frequently complicated with peritonitis and pleuritis, and sometimes with pneumonia.  Its duration varies from two to eight and sometimes ten days, as in common erysipelas, but more frequently it is greatly protracted.

If ‘cold plague’ and epidemic erysipelas are identical—which we confidently believe them to be—the physician will know how to treat it, and many valuable lives may be spared.  We throw out these ideas for the benefit of the profession and the public.