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History Matters: A Poet's Vision from 100 years ago

Diseases and IllnessesTuberculosisPoetryGreta GarboU.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

100 Years Ago

A Poet's Vision

From the social column:

"Mr. and Mrs. William A. Steward and Miss Sadie Steward will sail for Europe in January and spend the balance of the winter abroad."

From a large Times ad about a play coming to Ellicott City:

"Howard House; One Day ONLY, Sat. Jan 4, $100,000 Production: A Poet's Vision of Hell. One year in New York and still playing; Six months in Chicago without a stop; One year in Atlantic city; Admission 25 cents to all!"

Regarding that vision, I'd think one kind of "poet's vision of hell" would be conjuring up a stanza, with perfect tone, rhythm, and alliteration, without a pencil in sight.

75 Years Ago

'The foe of youth'

"T.B. threatens Young Women," was the headline of a Times article that week: "Leading Statistician States Latest Facts On This Serious Situation."

" 'Leading tuberculosis authorities call tuberculosis the foe of youth,'" says Miss Jessamine S. Whitney, statistician of the National Tuberculosis Association, " 'But I go even further and call it the foe of girls and young women. Why? Because the deaths from tuberculosis among them are one and one-half times as many as those among their brothers of the same age."

The death rate from tuberculosis has been cut to less than one-third of what it was 30 years ago when it was the leading cause of death. Yet when we analyze these deaths, we find that tuberculosis is still the leading cause of death for men and women between 15 and 45 years of age and we also find that among young women between 15 and 30, one of every four deaths is from this highly contagious disease.

Miss Whitney in answering why tuberculosis is twice as prevalent among young women as among young men says, "No one knows. Today it is an outstanding mystery in public health."

Most of us learned about TB from books, movies or plays. Actress Greta Garbo, portraying a woman dying from consumption in "Camille," comes to mind. Though it's no longer the great killer of yesteryear, according to the Centers for Disease Control there were 10,528 TB cases in the United States 2011.

50 Years Ago

Bad dogs

"Dog Pack Attacks Girl Hunting Christmas Tree:

"A 17 year-old girl was attacked by a pack of dogs Sunday, Dec. 16. in a woods off Washington Blvd. while looking for a Christmas tree.

"The girl, Barbara Ann Bruns, 17, was bitten by one of the dogs in the calf of her right leg.

"According to police reports, the girl and her father, Robert Bruns, were in a patch of woods behind the Colonial China Shop when they came upon the dogs near an old house. After the attack an unidentified man stepped out of the woods and called the dogs away from them.

"Officer Burke of the Howard County Police went to investigate and found the dogs. He could not get out of his car for the dogs jumping and milling around the car, but estimated there were from 12 to 15 dogs present. Police referred the problem to the Howard County Sanitation Department and the Animal Shelter."

T'was a Christmas to remember for that family. The story leaves you wondering: Did the dogs have their vaccinations? (doubtful). Could they point out which dog bit her? Was the dog quarantined for observation? Did the young woman have to take those, at the time, awful anti-rabies shots?

It was Louis Pasteur who gave us the treatment for rabies in 1885. Before that event less than a century and a half ago, mankind had no tools with which to fight rabies. Pasteur also gave us the process of pasteurization, along with a host of other discoveries he made in his laboratory.

He began learning about microbes when he was trying battling the diseases affecting wine grown from the grapes in French vineyards. His myriad discoveries spread across the world, with the first of his institutes, outside of France, opening in 1891, in Saigon.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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