We Have The ‘Ten Commandments’ of Disease Prevention in 1918
by Anne Marielle Eugenio, May 01, 2020 9:52am
Art by Dani Elevazo
COVID-19 has taken away thousands of lives all around the world. In the Philippines alone, there are almost 3,000 cases as of writing, prompting the government to extend the Enhanced Community Quarantine. This is not the first time the Philippines suffered under a disease. We have been affected by two cholera pandemics in 1882 and 1902 and the Spanish flu in 1918.
As we try to control the disease back then, there has been a set of rules for disease prevention. In the Philippine health service sanitary almanac for 1919 and calendars for 1920 and 1921, there’s something called the Ten Precepts for Disease Prevention.
"You shall not let the filthy fly live"— Ayala Museum (@ayalamuseum) April 28, 2020
Curious how we tried to control disease back then? Here are the 10 rules for disease prevention circa 1918. pic.twitter.com/y6jRRjfrHs
If you would read the precepts, it sounds like the Ten Commandments in the Bible, starting off with “Honor your city and keep its sanitary laws.” It’s important to remember the “cleaning day” and make it “wholly.”
It also promotes “love for children” by giving them good food, decent homes, and taking their health conditions into account. Love thy neighbor? Keep your surroundings clean so you won’t kill them with “poisonous air and disease breeding filth.” And to avoid the further spread of disease, the ten precepts orders us to “not spit on the sidewalks, nor on the floor, nor in the street car, nor any public place whatsoever.”
Apart from these Ten Precepts of Disease Prevention, the Philippine health service sanitary almanac for 1919 and calendars for 1920 and 1921 also gives us the description of common diseases like colds and diarrhea and how people treat them circa 1920s. You can read it all here.
We are now in the present time but these ten precepts are something we can still follow to prevent diseases. We have yet to find the cure for COVID-19. For now, we can keep our bodies and surroundings clean to avoid viruses and bacteria from infecting us. You’ve heard this several times before, but stay safe and healthy. We mean it.