The Benefits of Enterprise

An increased level of prosperity realised from the efforts of enterprise brings with it access to both modern medicines and the capacity to implement the social compact for the benefit of everyone.  Throughout the ages plagues and epidemics have killed millions of people up to 60% of the population in Europe in one case.  Today we worry about new diseases that we do not yet have cures for such as ebola and cancer but no longer fear things like the Bubonic Plague.

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Greater prosperity creates the means for businesses to invest in research to find cures and for governments to have the resources and authority to impose necessary imposts on society in order to control the environment and eliminate the means for disease to flourish.  An awareness of the benefits that come to everyone from the success of enterprises increasing prosperity in society is more important than any perceived inequity in an unequal sharing of the returns in business.

The 17th of July in 1900 was a Tuesday, and it was on that day that Sydney completed its Bubonic Plague cleansing operations following  a severe outbreak in the early part of the 20th century.  It began in January 1900 when 33-year-old Arthur Payne showed symptoms of Bubonic plague as a result of coming into contact with the disease at Central Wharf where he worked as a carter. Within eight months, 303 people had contracted the plague, and 103 of them had died.

Cleansing operations began in Sydney on 24 March. Extensive washing, liming, disinfecting and burning of property was undertaken, while buildings classified as slums were demolished in an attempt to rid the city of the rats spreading the disease. More than 44 000 rats were burned by rat-catchers. Wharves and docks were also cleared of silt, debris and sewerage.

The Cleansing Operations finished on 17 July 1900. However, ships continued to bring the disease to Australia, and between 1900 and 1925, there were twelve major outbreaks of Bubonic plague, with Sydney bearing the brunt of the disease. In all, 1371 cases were reported, along with 535 deaths – certainly far fewer than the deaths reported in some countries.

Bubonic plague is a zoonotic disease, circulating mainly in fleas on small rodents, and is one of three types of bacterial infections caused by Yersinia pestis (formerly known as Pasteurella pestis), that belongs to the family Enterobacteriaceae. Without treatment, the bubonic plague kills about two thirds of infected humans within four days.

The key to preventing deaths from this disease is treatment with antibiotics and eradication of rat infestations that carry the fleas which transmit the plague.  Today we understand the importance of rat proofing buildings, preventing access to food and shelter by rodents through appropriate storage and disposal of food, garbage and refuse; and the importance of avoiding flea bites by use of insecticides and repellents.  Rat suppression by poisoning is carried out  when necessary to augment basic environmental sanitation measures along with measures to control fleas.   We control rats on ships and docks and in warehouses by rat proofing or periodic fumigation, combined when necessary with destruction of rats and their fleas in vessels and in cargoes, especially containerised cargoes, before shipment and on arrival from plague endemic locations.

In 2013 there was about 750 documented cases of plague which resulted in 126 deaths a far cry from the 24 million in the 14th century, all possible because of our access to modern medicine and knowledge.

 

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