From the Otsego Herald
for Saturday, Jan. 30, 1813
Compiled, with comments
by HUGH C. MacDOUGALL
Spotted Fever Epidemic
Herkimer, NY: Alarming Disease! – For nearly two weeks past, a very alarming disorder, said by the Physicians to be similar to the Spotted Fever, has been raging in this town and its vicinity; and, as it is thought to be contagious, excited almost universal consternation.
This epidemic is believed to be the same which has so grievously afflicted the soldiers in the camps at Buffalo, Ogdensburgh, Burlington, Plattsburgh, &c. where the mortality has been dreadful. Numbers in our own neighborhood have already fallen victims to this terrible malady, and new cases are daily occurring.
Bleeding has in most, if not all cases proved fatal … Herkimer American.
COMMENT: “‘Spotted Fever’ is another, rather old, name for Epidemic Cerebrospinal Fever, which is a rather old name for Meningococcal Meningitis.” It became epidemic during the War of 1812, spreading largely among soldiers, and from them to civilians. To quote one account from Vermont:
“This entire section of New England, if not a much larger area, during the spring seasons of 1812 and 1813, was scourged by a fearful epidemic, called at first “spotted fever” and later “malignant fever.” So great were its ravages, that the deaths in Vermont reached 6,000 by this disease alone, or about one death in 40 inhabitants. The disease is supposed to be the same as that now called cerebro-spinal-meningitis, and was not then considered contagious.”
The Otsego Herald printed a very long discussion of the causes and presumptive cure of spotted fever, from Dr. John D. Ross of Geneva, NY. I have found a much shorter one, which was probably equally ineffective: “Cure for Spotted Fever-To one quart of lime add one gallon of water. To one quart of tar, add two quarts of water. Let these stand in separate vessels until they froth, skim the froth, pour them together. To this mixture add eight ounces of saltpeter, four ounces of opium — take a glass when going to bed and repeat the same in four or five hours.”