20 JANUARY 1900, Page 16


[To VIE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] SIR,—In an article in the Spectator of January 13th on "Some Aspects of Illness," reference is made to "our now painfully familiar visitor which some foolish person christened 'influenza,' but which is really a variety of malarial fever." The writer is to be congratulated on his attainment of cer- tainty (denied to most pathologists) concerning the nature of influenza. But before be can communicate a like feeling of certainty to others he must condescend to explain a few obvious difficulties. Malaria is endemic in certain regions, and never spreads epidemically; influenza occurs in epidemics, and is not limited to localities. It is generally believed, if not abso- lutely proved, that influenza is infections in the ordinary sense,—i.e., that it is communicated from person to person; certainly it seems to be mainly propagated by human inter- course ; nothing of the kind is true of malaria. The typical fever in malaria is characterised by intermittency ; influenza! fever has no such characteristic. Amongst the various mani- festations of influenza the most frequent are affections of the respiratory system ; that system is usually spared by malaria. Lastly, in every form of malaria a peculiar microscopic para- site exists in the blood, introduced there (as recent research has made practically certain) by the bites of certain mos- quitoes; the micro-parasite found in influenza is totally different, as different as a fungus is from a flea. In short, if influenza is "a variety of malarial fever," it is a " variety " which has an essentially different origin, different habitat, different mode of dissemination, and different specific characters,—and the term "variety" must be used in a sense unfamiliar to naturalists. Until these difficulties have been explained I must decline to accept the nomenclature proposed by the writer of the article, and must remain one of those "foolish persons" (strange that they should so abound in the medical profession !) who call our familiar visitor by the time- honoured name of influenza.—I am, Sir, 8 Chiswick Place, Eastbourne. H. L. GARRETT, M.D.