That Time John Snow Saved London

In 1854 London, a cholera outbreak had killed hundreds, with mortality rates recorded as high as 12.8% in some areas.  Residents were fleeing the neighborhood while hospitals struggled to help the victims of the outbreak, including heroic efforts by a later to be famous nurse named Florence Nightingale on behalf of the destitute “fallen women” of the area.  This was only the latest of a string of outbreaks which had been plaguing the city for over two decades, with steadily worsening results for the poorer classes.

An enterprising physician named John Snow discounted the prevailing scientific theory of his day that the cholera was carried along in “poison air” which gathered in the lower regions of the city; instead he tracked each individual case of the disease, plotted their locations and common habits, and posited that it was actually contaminated water behind the outbreak.  City leaders and other physicians were skeptical at best, but in desperation to stem the outbreak local community leaders finally allowed Dr. Snow to remove the handle of the Broad Street pump, which he had identified as the center of the outbreak.  In an action which has become legendary among epidemiologists, Snow removed the handle September 8, 1854.  Almost immediately the outbreak was stopped, and a new understanding of the spread of disease, and how to stem it, began to grow.

All of this should be common knowledge to any reasonably educated person, yet it seems the lesson taught by Dr. Snow is completely lost upon the medical professionals currently running the U.S. action to stop the Covid-19 (aka Chinese bat soup flu) outbreak in our country.  We know the vector of infection, we have identified the infected pump, and yet we still apply leeches to let the blood from our economy rather than break the handle off the pump.

Behold, the Broad Street Pump Handle of 2020:

As of this report, 84 NYC MTA workers have died of the Xi TB, which extrapolated out is a rate of 1,667 per million.  By contrast, the hardest hit country in the world per capita, Belgium, has a fatality rate of only 656.7 per million, followed by Spain at 519.5 and Italy at 458.1.  Thus, despite all the hoopla we’ve heard in the news about the collapse of Italy, a NYC MTA worker has a 364% greater chance of dying of Covid 19 than your average Italian.

This subway system transports an average of 5.7 million riders per day, in cramped cars which are now cleaned and disinfected on an irregular basis at best, shoulder to shoulder in a sealed tube with at least a few infected individuals on every ride.  But Fuhrer Deblasio has decreed that the trains must run, even as the churches and synagogues may be closed “permanently”.  Fascists always do have this thing about the trains running, don’t they?

Downstate New York, particularly New York City itself, is the epicenter for infection in the U.S., with other major hubs for the pandemic such as Miami Beach, Chicago and Detroit sharing regular, direct air travel from New York.  This pandemic is stewing in the closed, cramped, fetid, unsanitary confines of the subway system which still runs today.  We have placed the people of our nation in house arrest to stop an epidemic, all while ignoring the current source.  It’s past time to follow Dr. Snow’s example and break off the pump handle.  Shut down the NYC subway system until the pandemic passes.


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4 responses to “That Time John Snow Saved London

  1. As I recall, London of that time had a shit problem, kind of like the San Francisco of today.

  2. One of the things that puzzles me is how the “poisoned air” concept is on full display today. In some places you are only allowed to effing go outside for an hour? You can’t paddle board out in the surf or run on the beach by yourself? This isn’t radioactive fallout we’re dealing with.

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