And we sing paeans for Jenner..
The inhabitants of Bengal knowing the usual time when the inoculating Bramins annually return, observe strictly the regimen enjoined, whether they determine to be inoculated or not; this preparation consists only in abstaining for a month from fish, milk and ghee, (a kind of butter made generally of buffalo’s milk) the prohibition of fish respects only the native Portuguese and Mahometans, who abound in every province of the empire.
When the Bramins begin to inoculate, they pass from house to house and operate at the door, refusing to inoculate any who have not, on a strict scrutiny, duly observed the preparatory course enjoined them. It is no uncommon thing for them to ask the parents how many pocks they chuse their children should have: Vanity, we should think, urged a question on a matter seemingly so uncertain in the issue; but true it is, that they hardly ever exceed, or are deficient in the number required.
They inoculate indifferently on any part; but if left to their choice, they prefer the outside of the arm, midway between the wrist and the elbow for the males; and the same between the elbow and the for the females. Previous to the operation, the operator takes a piece cloth in his hand (which becomes his perquisite, if the family is opulent), and with it gives a dry friction upon the part intended for inoculation, for the space of eight or ten minutes; then with a small instrument he wounds, by many slight touches, about the compass of a silver groat, just making the smallest appearance of blood; then opening a linen double rag (which he always keeps in a cloth round his waist) takes from thence a small pledget of cotton charged with the variolous matter, which he moistens with two or three drops of the Ganges water, and applies it to the wound, fixing it on with a slight bandage, and ordering it to remain on for six hours without being moved, then the bandage to be taken oft and the pledget to remain until it falls off itself; sometimes (but rarely) he squeezes a drop from the pledget, upon the part before he applies it; from the time he begins the dry friction, to the tying the knot of the bandage, he never ceases reciting some portions of the worship appointed, by the Aughtorrah Bhade, to be paid to the female divinity beforementioned, nor quits the most solemn countenance all the while. The cotton, which he preserves in a double callico rag, is saturated with matter from the inoculated pustules of the preceding year, for they never inoculate with fresh matter, nor with matter from the disease caught in the natural way, however distinct and mild the species. He then proceeds to give instructions for the treatment of the patient through the course of the process, which are most religiously observed; these are as follow:
He extends the prohibition of fish, milk and ghee, for one month from the day of inoculation; early on the morning succeeding the operation, four collons (an earthen pot containing about two gallons of cold water) are ordered to be thrown over the patient from the head downwards, and to be repeated every morning and evening until the fever comes on, (which usually is about the close of the sixth day from the inoculation) then to desist until the appearance of the eruptions (which commonly happens at the close of the third complete day from the commencement of the fever) and then to pursue the cold bathing as before, through the course of the disease, and until the scabs of the pustules drop off. They are ordered to open all the pustules with a fine sharp-pointed thorn, as soon as they begin to change their colour and whilst the matter continues in a fluid state. Confinement to the house is absolutely forbid, and the inoculated are ordered to be exposed to every air that blows; and the utmost indulgence they are allowed when the fever comes on, is to be laid on a mat at the door; but in fact, the eruptive fever is generally so inconsiderable and trifling, as very seldom to require this indulgence. Their regimen is ordered to consist of all the refrigerating things the climate and season produces, as plantains, sugar-canes, water melons, rice, gruel made of white poppy seeds, and cold water, or thin rice gruel for their ordinary drink. These instructions being given and an injunction laid on the patients to make a thanksgiving Poojah, or offering to the goddess on their recovery, the operator takes his fee, which from the poor is a pound of cowries, equal to about a penny sterling, and goes on to another door, down one side of the street and upon the other, and is thus employed from morning until night, inoculating sometimes eight or ten in a house. The regimen they order, when they are called to attend the disease taken in the natural way, is uniformly the same. There usually begins to be a discharge from the scarification a day before the eruption, which continues through the disease, sometime after the scabs of the pock fall off; and a few pustules generally appear round the edge of the wound; when these two circumstances appear only, without a single eruption on any part of the body, the patient is deemed as secure from future infection as if the eruption had been general.
When the before recited treatment of the inoculated is strictly followed, it is next to a miracle to hear that, one in a million fails of receiving the infection, or of one that miscarries under it; of the multitudes I have seen inoculated in that country, the number of pustules have been seldom less than fifty, and hardly ever exceeded two hundred.