According to my mum, I had a really bad bout of scarlet fever when I was around four years old. From what I am told, I developed strep throat, which led to a rash, which led to a four-year-old kid who was too sick walk into the doctor’s office. After that dramatic visit to the family doctor, I was dosed up on antibiotics and then promptly recovered. Years later, I read the excellent Booky trilogy set in Depression-era Toronto by Bernice Thurman Hunter, and noticed a passing mention of a local family who had been quarantined due to scarlet fever. Drama Queen that I was at 12, I began to fantasize about the seemingly romantic fate of a death sentence due to an illness I had managed to overcome. From that time on, I’ve often taken moments to contemplate the fact that, had I been born earlier, there is a good chance that I might not have lived past the age of four. (more…)
Why will Jane and John Jones born in 2010 and 2011 respectively live four score years or longer?
Vaccination as a deliberate attempt to protect humans against disease has a short history.
In spite of this, vaccination has had a major effect on the reduction of mortality and length of life
Since the time of Edward Jenner (Figure 1), vaccination has eliminated smallpox. Smallpox was greatly feared as the leading cause of death in the western world in the 18th century. Because of the high mortality with smallpox (25%), the practice of variolation with the smallpox virus had been practiced in eastern societies and was introduced in Britain in 1721. However the subsequent infection was occasionally severe with a mortality of 1 to 2%.
In 1798, Jenner introduced vaccination with cowpox vaccine as protection against smallpox which rapidly replaced variolation. Although many were anxious regarding vaccination (Figure 2) and in spite of an anti-vaccination campaign, vaccination was rapidly accepted. During the 19th and first half of the 20thcenturies the methods of vaccination continued to be refined (Figure 3) and the quality of the vaccine improved. A worldwide vaccination campaign eliminated this disease as of 1979.
Jane and John Smith born in Portsmouth Village, now a neighbourhood of Kingston, Ontario, in 1810 and 1812 respectively had a life expectancy of forty years.
Jane and John Jones born in Kingston in 2009 and 2011 respectively look forward to a life expectancy of eighty years.
What accounts for this striking difference? (more…)
While doing a long overdue sorting and clean-up of the Museum’s small research library recently, I came across a fascinating little publication entitled The Book of a Life, From Generation to Generation by James C. Connell, M.D., published in 1935 by the Ryerson Press. This slim volume is a form of medical diary, where an individual writes down his or her health history from birth until old age (presumably, the book would be started by the parent!). It’s sort of the “full life” version of those baby books where parents record their child’s early development and paste in photos and locks of hair. (more…)