Monday, February 11, 2019

Public Health Warning Cards

There was a time that if  someone in the family came down with an infectious disease the Public Heath department would place a cardboard sign on your house warning other people to stay away.  It was much embarrassment to the family and if that family had a business (grocery store, restaurant etc) and their apartment was above the business it was an economic downfall.

This happen in our local area until the 1950s. 

the signs shown are not from Delaware or Maryland  but merely representative of the type of cards that were used.

above from 1934

above 1931

The Lehi Historical Society carried an interesting article on Diphtheria (the reason the Iditarod takes place) and it is reprinted below.

There were many diseases that spread through towns and villages causing sickness and death over the years. Diphtheria is one of them that we don't hear of much anymore. (Diphtheria causes swelling of the mucous membranes, including in your throat, that can obstruct breathing and swallowing. Sometimes a bacterial toxin can enter the bloodstream and cause fatal heart and nerve damage.) In the 1920s 13,000 to 15,000 deaths occurred nearly every year in the United States due to the disease. The first inactivated toxin, or toxoid, against diphtheria was developed around 1921, but it was not widely used until the 1930s. Before that time many so called remedies were used to try to prevent and cure the disease.

In 1880 the disease was causing several deaths around the State. Sarah Harris, at 16 years of age found herself suffering with the disease in Salt Lake City, and it nearly took her life. This is her experience of her unusual healing in her own words.

“After going to school for about two weeks, I took very sick with the diphtheria which was an epidemic in the city at that time, very few who took it recovered. Everything possible was done for my recovery, Aunt Mary cared for me as she would her own child. A doctor came to care for me every morning about 10:00 and sometimes in the evening.

There was a large lump which grew in my throat, it looked like a toad stool and would almost choke me. I would swallow it would move back and forth in my throat making a noise so loud your could hear it in the other rooms of the house.

One morning when the doctor came he told Aunt Mary there was an old lady going around town taking these lumps out of the throats of the sick, and every one of them died shortly after. A few days after this doctor came and brought another young doctor with him who was just learning to practice. Aunt Mary could smell the liquor on the doctor and knew he had been drinking, something he had never done before, so she stood right outside my bedroom door and listened closely to everything they said.

The doctor took a pair of pinchers out of his satchel and told the young doctor who was with him that if they could get that lump out of my throat without breaking it, and dry it on glass it would mean thousands of dollars to them in their earnings. He propped me up in bed with pillows and told me to open my mouth as side as I could and keep it open.

During all this time Aunt Mary was just outside the door watching all that went on and listening very closely to all that was said. As the doctor with his pinchers in his hand was about to begin his operation Aunt Mary very quietly slipped up behind him and quickly taking hold of his wrist she twisted the pinchers out of his hand saying, 'No you don’t, I remember that you told me about the old lady.' She took the pinchers in her room and hid them. The doctor stood speechless but very gently he took the pillows from my back and laid me back down in bed, then without a word they left.
The next morning the doctor returned at the usual time. By this time he was sober and cared for me in his usual way. He had a little brush and a small bottle of medicine which he swabbed my throat a little at a time.

When the doctor swabbed my throat he said it was a deadly poison. After each swabbing of my throat he took the brush and bottle and burned them. He warned me to be sure and not swallow anything that might break off from the lump in my throat. A few days after this the doctor came in the morning and again in the evening, before he left he told Aunt Mary he could do no more for me. He said, 'She has gone beyond the help of man and tonight at midnight the change will come.' He prepared and left a small glass of medicine different to what I had been taking and told Aunt Mary to give me a spoonful every hour during the night, but a fear came over her.

She was frightened of the medicine and felt impressed it would harm me, so as soon as the doctor left she took it and threw it outdoors. After she had done this she was inspired by the Spirit of the Lord what to do for me and immediately carried out her inspiration.

She called her husband and son Ed to her and gave them instructions. Ed went to the yard, caught a chicken and split it two with an axe, then as quickly as he could holding the chicken together he ran to the kitchen door where his father placed the chicken on a heavy piece of paper and took it to Aunt Mary who waited it at my bedroom door.

She had made me ready by taking all the clothing off from my chest, shoulders and back. She quickly took the chicken and while its heart was still beating, she opened it up and placed it on my throat and chest. I could feel its heart beating, and it made me so sick I thought I would never stand it. I could feel myself getting fainter and fainter until I went unconscious.

About three or four o’clock in the morning Aunt Mary awoke me so that she could care for me before the doctor came. Before awakening me she took the chicken off my chest and buried it. Ed dug the hole ready to put it in but it had such an awful smell they could hardly stand to bury it. It had turned as green as grass for it had drawn the terrible disease from my body. She gave me a bath and put clean clothes on me, then she put clean linen on my bed.

Instead of the doctor coming at the usual time, 10:00 in the morning, he came at 6:00 expecting to find me dead. He came in the door and stood scratching his head dumbfounded repeating three times, 'This is a miracle, I expected to come this morning and find her stretched out on boards.' He turned to Aunt Mary and said, 'If you need me anymore you know where to find me.' He said, 'Good morning.' and left.

From that time on I continued to get well, by spring I was able to walk around, but if I happened to fall down which I did many times I couldn’t get up unless I crawled to something and pulled myself up. For a long time I had to eat and drink by myself for my throat was so badly eaten out I had to hold my head back or the food and water would come back through my nose.”

It took several years but Sarah recovered and lived to the age of 92 and had over 150 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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