Notes on a diphtheria epidemic, circa 1735

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Content Notes

Contains notes on an epidemic, probably diphtheria, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in September and October 1735. The document, written by an unidentified Boston, Massachusetts, physician, contains extracts of letters from doctors, including Portsmouth physician Joseph Peirce, describing the disease and case histories of patients, as well as the course of treatment pursued. Peirce's method included bloodletting, administering purgatives, and applying emollient warm cataplasms. A note from the physician who created the manuscript suggests one case described was actually erysipelas.

Biographical Notes

In May 1735, an epidemic termed "putrid sore throat" or "throat distemper," now known as diphtheria, appeared in New Hampshire and spread to Massachusetts. Mortality rates from disease were higher in children; of the 99 people in Portsmouth who died by July 1736, 81 were children under the age of 10.