Believe it or Not…
In 1884 in New York, Little Red, the first TB sanatorium in the country, was opened. Left, exterior of Little Red; right, interior of Little Red.
Tuberculosis has been present in the human population since antiquity. Fragments of the spinal column from Egyptian mummies from 2400 B.C. show definite signs of tubercular decay. The term phthisis, consumption, appears first in Greek literature (Greeks named the disease phthisis because of its characteristic wasting). Around 460 BC, Hippocrates identified phthisis as the most widespread disease of the times.
In 1720, the English physician Benjamin Marten was the first to conjecture, in his publication, A New Theory of Consumption, that TB could be caused by "wonderfully minute living creatures", which once they had gained a foothold in the body, could generate the lesions and symptoms of the disease.
The introduction of the sanatorium cure provided the first step against TB. Hermann Brehmer, a Silesian botany student suffering from TB, was instructed by his doctor to seek out a healthier climate. He traveled to the Himalaya Mountains where he could pursue his botanical studies while trying to rid himself of the disease. He returned home cured and began to study medicine. In 1854, he presented his doctoral dissertation: Tuberculosis is a Curable Disease. In the same year, he built an institution in Gorbersdorf where, in the midst of fir trees, and with good nutrition, patients were exposed on their balconies to continuous fresh air. This became the blueprint for the subsequent development of sanatoria, a weapon in the battle against TB.
By Mathew Sarrel
Division of Communicable Diseases
Tuberculosis Control Program
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||Tuberculosis History Archives
These photos are from the Kentucky Department for Public Health TB program archives and represent different activities at the state's TB hospitals in the 1960s and 70s.
Above, Kentucky map (date unknown) shows the locations of state-run TB control program facilities.
The state TB hospital in Paris (above, left), opened in 1950. The facility at right was located in Lexington.
Above, the sun deck at Waverly Tuberculosis Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky offered patients fresh air and sunshine, then believed to be key elements in fighting TB.
Above, a patient receives a TB skin test.
Most of the state's TB hospitals were equipped with operating rooms and staff to treat the patients on site (photos above).
Governor Happy Chandler was the 2 millionth person to receive a chest X-ray provided by mobile radiology units (above).
Mobile X-ray units criss-crossed the state as one method to combat the outbreak of TB in remote areas of Kentucky (above).
Kentucky TB hospitals were self-contained and equipped with all the staff and resources to treat TB. Hospital laboratory technicians are pictured above.
On-site laundry services and staff were essential to TB hospital operations. A hospital laundry facility and worker are pictured above.
Laundry worker (above left), cafeteria worker (above right)
TB hospital boiler room (above left), TB hospital surgeon (above center), TB hospital clerical worker (above right).
Waverly Tuberculosis Hospital (above and below) in Louisville is now closed.
Fresh air was a part of the regimen to battle tuberculosis. Above, patients receive fresh air treatment on the sun porch at Waverly Tuberculosis Hospital in Louisville.
Above, Hazelwood Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Louisville also closed.
This TB facility in Louisville (above, left) opened in the 1950s and was remodeled some time during the late 1960s or 70s. Remodeled rooms featured new furnishings, lighting systems, nurse-call units and TVs. Drab hospital green walls were updated with pastel colors. Above right, hospital patients line up to show off their new room TV sets.
TB hospital nursing staff in the 1950s and 60s received instruction on specialized TB patient care, above.
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