marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The White Death

The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis by Thomas Dormandy

This is not light reading.  Its discussion only briefly touches on pre-modern Europe, but there's plenty in America and modern Europe to keep it grim.

Covers the effects on the wide-spread populations who had it, as best can be determined from the records.  (Better more recently, to be sure.) World War I caused an uptick in deaths all over. In neutral Denmark, for instance -- apparently the increased demand for food exports drove it, because it reversed after the British blockade and the consequent decrease in food prices.

Prominent victims and their sufferings, which we have in more detail -- Keats, D. H. Lawrence, Orwell among the most prominent, but plenty of others.

The real advances and the false ones.

The stethoscope, for instance, was an early one; it enabled the development of percussion as a diagnostic tool, which could be used frequently without danger.

The discovery of the bacillus, which managed in time to wear down insistence that it was hereditary.

Sanatoriums, which were THE treatment for decades in spite of only one experiment to test their efficiency.  (And that involved rabbits; the scientist took three sets, inoculated two of them, let one inoculated bunch run wild on an island, and kept the other two in nasty conditions, and the conditions were worse than inoculation.)

X-Rays and the first early diagnoses.  (They used to think massively advanced

The discovery of how to detect TB and the massive testing in the United States of milch cows, which caused rates of bovine TB to plummet -- and were only slowly adopted in other countries.

Antibiotics, and the subsequent discovery that many apparent TB cases, weren't, and the development of further problems.

Full of grim information.
Tags: history reviews: across eras

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