Page 147

The Preventorium by Gary D. Crawford

Tuberculosis is an ancient disease. Traces of TB have been found in mummies dating back 6,000 years. Known by a variety of names, such as phthisis and scrofula, in the English-speaking world the disease came to be called “consumption” because the body appears to be progressively consumed by it. The emaciation, death-like pallor, and draining of energy also gave rise to the terms “the wasting disease” or “the White Plague.” Literary references to TB abound. Shakespeare said “‘T’ is called the evil” and described sufferers as “all swol’n and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye.” No one then knew what caused the disease or how to combat it. It was most prevalent where living conditions were crowded and squalid, which caused it to be associated with poverty and slums. But anyone could get it, and a very great many did. Any widespread disease naturally provokes fear. The essential questions are whether it is contagious and, if so, how is it transmitted. The answers provoke various responses to the disease, some helpful, some not. One aspect of TB that makes it so puzzling is its “latency.” Persons may be infected with TB for years with virtually no symptoms and

without passing the disease on to others. Moreover, only about one in ten with latent TB will develop active TB ~ but those who do will suffer terribly and, if untreated, half of them will perish. The incidence of tuberculosis grew progressively during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, displacing leprosy, peaking between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as field workers moved to the cities looking for work. In the metropolis of London, 1 in 7 died from consumption at the dawn

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May 2015 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times May 2015

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