Thursday, April 28, 2011

Board of Health Report 1901 - 1902 - Small Pox

Published 28 April 2011, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,
The Kentucky State Board of Health was established in 1878. The seven board members were to study the vital statistics, including diseases and epidemics, the causes of mortality and the effects of localities, employment, conditions, food, water supply, habits and circumstances on the health of residents. In addition to a state Board of Health, each county court was to appoint a three-member local Board of Health, one of whom was to be a practicing physician.

There had been outbreaks of smallpox  and other diseases in the latter days of the 1800s and into the early years of the 1900s. The Biennial Report of the State Board of Health for 1902-1903 contained reports from various counties. For this article, information is presented on Caldwell, Crittenden and Livingston Counties.

The Caldwell County Board of Health consisted of Dr. J.A.H. Miller, Dr. R.W. Ogilvie, L.H. Darby and Dr. P.R. Shelby, all of Princeton. They reported that during the last two years there had been two outbreaks of smallpox, both in Princeton, with a total of 21 cases, but no deaths. An eruptive hospital, containing two rooms with a capacity of four white and two or three colored inmates, was located within a few miles of Princeton.  It was thought that the disease was brought to the county from Christian and McCracken counties. About 10,000 persons out of the total population of 16,000 had been vaccinated.  The following comment was added to the county report: “We have had trouble to get our doctors to report contagious diseases; one doctor even declining to report a case or more of smallpox, and even told some who had been exposed that he would rather have smallpox than be vaccinated, and advised the family not to be vaccinated, and every one in the family except one person had the disease in a grave form.”

The Crittenden County Board of Health consisted of Dr. T.A. Frazer, Jno. W. Blue, Dr. T.L. Phillips, Dr. W.T. Daugh and Dr. E.E. Newcomb. They reported two outbreaks of smallpox. The disease was brought to the county from Evansville, Ind. and southeast Missouri. About 6,000 persons had been vaccinated, leaving 10,000 or 37 ½ percent currently unvaccinated. Other diseases prevalent recently within the county included 25 cases of diphtheria (with six deaths) and nine cases of scarlet fever in July 1903 (no deaths). During the last two years there were 140 cases of typhoid fever with 31 deaths. The chief cause was polluted drinking water and improper sanitation. The chief difficulty of health officers was the lack of funds and the ignorance of people regarding sanitation and the thing most needed was to get the fiscal court to realize that money expended to improve sanitary conditions is a good investment.

Members of the Livingston County Board of Health were Dr. F.G. LaRue, Dr. J.V. Hayden and Thomas Evans. They reported two outbreaks of smallpox, one at Iuka and the other at Joy, for a total of 30 cases and no deaths. An eruptive hospital was located near Smithland, but was a very poor building, having two rooms and a capacity for six white and four colored inmates. In one outbreak, the disease was brought to the county from Missouri. The origin of the other outbreak was unknown. A total of 2,900 persons were then protected by vaccination, out of a population of 12,000.  It was also reported that there had been two outbreaks of scarlet fever in Smithland recently and there were no deaths. It was estimated that 80 cases of typhoid fever had occurred in the county during the last two years with about 20 deaths. The chief cause was poor sanitary regulations.

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