How Epidemics of the past changed the way Americans lived

 

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Past public health crises inspired innovations in infrastructure, education, fundraising and civic debate

At the end of the 19th century, one in seven people around the world had died of tuberculosis, and the disease ranked as the third leading cause of death in the United States. While physicians had begun to accept German physician Robert Koch’s scientific confirmation that TB was caused by bacteria, this understanding was slow to catch on among the general public, and most people gave little attention to the behaviors that contributed to disease transmission. They didn’t understand that things they did could make them sick. In his book, Pulmonary Tuberculosis: Its Modern Prophylaxis and the Treatment in Special Institutions and at Home, S. Adolphus Knopf, an early TB specialist who practiced medicine in New York, wrote that he had once observed several of his patients sipping from the same glass as other passengers on a train, even as “they coughed and expectorated a good deal.” It was common for family members, or even strangers, to share a drinking cup.

With Knopf’s guidance, in the 1890s the New York City Health Department launched a massive campaign to educate the public and reduce transmission. The “War on Tuberculosis” public health campaign discouraged cup-sharing and prompted states to ban spitting inside public buildings and transit and on sidewalks and other outdoor spaces—instead encouraging the use of special spittoons, to be carefully cleaned on a regular basis. Before long, spitting in public spaces came to be considered uncouth, and swigging from shared bottles was frowned upon as well. These changes in public behavior helped successfully reduce the prevalence of tuberculosis.

As we are seeing with the coronavirus today, disease can profoundly impact a community—upending routines and rattling nerves as it spreads from person to person. But the effects of epidemics extend beyond the moments in which they occur. Disease can permanently alter society, and often for the best by creating better practices and habits. Crisis sparks action and response. Many infrastructure improvements and healthy behaviors we consider normal today are the result of past health campaigns that responded to devastating outbreaks.

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U.S. scientists make a breakthrough in tuberculosis

Tuberculosis most commonly affects the lungs, is transmitted via the air and caused by strains of mycobacteria.

Worldwide, more than 2 billion people are struck down with tuberculosis (TB).  Scientists in the U.S. have made a medical breakthrough that could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

 

 

 

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Social Networking Analysis and Genomics Solve Mysterious TB Outbreak

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Scientists used social-network analysis to find the origins of an outbreak of tuberculosis (top).

It was the baby’s case that first caught people’s attention: an infant in a medium-sized community in British Columbia that was diagnosed with tuberculosis in July 2006. When public health workers took a deeper look at the community’s medical records, they found a number of additional cases suggestive of an outbreak. By December 2008, 41 cases had been identified, bumping up the region’s annual incidence rate by a factor of 10.

 

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Doctors Perform Windpipe Transplant With Stem Cells

Doctors Perform Windpipe Transplant With Stem Cells 

 A patient’s collapsed lung, at right, is seen prior to a windpipe transplant which used tissue grown from the patient’s own stem cells.

Doctors have given a woman a new windpipe with tissue grown from her own stem cells, eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs. “This technique has great promise,” said Dr. Eric Genden, who did a similar transplant in 2005 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. That operation used both donor and recipient tissue. Only a handful of windpipe, or trachea, transplants have ever been done.

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