With the reported end of Minnesota measles outbreaks; and school beginning (where most children receive inoculations) I think of the multitude of epidemics and diseases that have plagued Sherburne County.
Tuberculosis, although generally not associated with epidemic disease; in the early 1900s the “white plague” caused significant worry in households throughout the United States. Sherburne County suffered a share of panic and death from the disease. An example of the concern and worry about the disease appeared in the local newspapers in December of 1928.
In 1928 a vaccine for tuberculosis remained in experimental stages. The American Lung Association carried out a fundraising campaign to cover research costs and patient treatment. Part of the campaign included selling Christmas Seals in communities throughout the United States. Locally, to promote the campaign and sell the Christmas seals, the Sherburne County Star News personalized the disease, reporting 5 terminal cases of Tuberculosis in the county. The report promoted the Christmas Seals program seeking a cure and an end to the epidemic disease.
A second promotional campaign consisted of information distribution. A popular flyer from the Lung Association, handed out by the County Board of Health, reminded citizens that spitting in public spread Tuberculosis. The front page of the flyer reminded people not to spit in public. The reverse emphasized the health concern, “Do your bit, don’t spit.”
Tuberculosis is also referred to as the white plague, consumption, or simply TB. Most prevalent in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the symptoms most patients included a persistent cough and physically wasting away. Doctors found the disease difficult to diagnose until patients were in a terminal stage. “Minnesota now has more than 14,000 active cases,” the 1928 newspaper reported. “Many of these are not even suspected as yet by the persons themselves, who are each day lessening their chances for recovery and spreading the disease to members of their families.”
Although the medical community developed a vaccine in 1906, the post-World War Two generation experienced the first mass immunization against the disease. The 1928 Sherburne County reports possibly marked the highpoint of epidemic tuberculosis. The fear in every household seemed a legitimate concern. As the newspaper reported, even in Sherburne County “No home is safe from tuberculosis until all homes are safe.”