Infectious diseases such as chickenpox, measles, scarlet fever, and smallpox, are always more or less among us, for no precautions are taken against their spread. The last is regarded as an ordinary children’s ailment, and is usually of a mild type. Yet a great many die of it, and many more are badly disfigured by pockmarks, or have other sad trace of the ravages of the disease.
Several terrible epidemic of cholera have swept through the country during the past thirty years. The worst was during my first summer in Moukden. Native treatment was worse than useless, consisting largely in piercing with needles. The disease was of a most malignant type, and the mortality was terrible, 20,000 coffins being carried out through the city gates during August and September. We were kept busy from morning till night trying to save lives. …
There is nothing magical about East Asians and containing epidemics. It’s just a story of their rise, coupled with Greater European decline.
As he sardonically notes, the same country that taught China how to prevent epidemics is now “succumbing to a pandemic of (possibly) Chinese origin”.