Childhood's Deadly Scourge: The Campaign to Control Diphtheria in New York City, 1880-1930

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9780801859786: Childhood's Deadly Scourge: The Campaign to Control Diphtheria in New York City, 1880-1930

Known as the "deadly scourge of childhood," diphtheria was a highly feared disease in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the United States. In New York City alone, thousands of cases were reported each year, with large numbers of deaths. Physicians and public health experts viewed diphtheria as one of the most difficult to treat and control of all childhood diseases. In Childhood's Deadly Scourge, Evelynn M. Hammonds describes how New York City became the first city in the United States to apply laboratory-based advances in bacteriology and immunology to the treatment and prevention of this deadly disease--the first such use of scientific medicine in a public health crisis in this country. Critical to the successful control of diphtheria, she argues, were unprecedented efforts to remove the stigma associated with the disease and provide access to treatment and preventive vaccines for the entire population at risk.

By 1930, the successful immunization of thousands of preschool- and school-aged children made evident for the first time the promise and force of the laboratory in infectious disease control. Today, as the threat of AIDS and other new diseases reopens the conflict between the protection of public health and the protection of civil liberties, Childhood's Deadly Scourge reminds us that technical solutions for disease control have complex social implications.

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About the Author:

Evelynn Maxine Hammonds is an associate professor of the history of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Review:

"Evelynn Hammonds has produced a work very sensitive to both the suffering caused by diphtheria and the successes brought on by scientific advance, while demonstrating that those successes were contingent on factors at work in the society at large." -- Edward T. Morman, Journal of the American Medical Association



"This book is a lucid account of the first successful battle of the laboratory versus disease. Thoroughly researched, logically organized, and well written, it is a good story well told." -- Elizabeth W. Etheridge, American Historical Review



"Hammond's careful analysis... is a fine example of the insights which historical study can offer modern efforts at limiting the miseries of disease in diverse social situations." -- Anne Hardy, Medical History



"A tightly focused study... set apart from the recent round of histories of infectious disease." -- Georgina Feldberg, Journal of American History

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