Despite John Wayne, Tuberculosis Is Still Around

One of the displays in the weensy museum in my grandma’s town of Hiawatha, Kansas, was a brick engraved with with the warning:

Don’t spit on the sidewalk.

and a notice that doing so was illegal. Because, grandma told me, that’s one way tuberculosis was spread.  So to me growing up, TB was a disease from another time period, a central plot point in Anne of Green Gables, something from which Doc Holliday and Victorian women with either dubious morals or charitable inclinations suffered.” St. John’s Infirmary,”  and Van Morrison’s “TB Sheets,” Camille–these were artifacts of tuberculosis.

Then in college I had to get TB test to work as a teacher’s aid in public schools. What, TB still existed?! I was negative despite what may have been considered in Victorian times dubious morals. Several years later  I was working as personal assistant to an author who had a seven year-old son and she explained that her son took medication that had to be ground up nightly in his apple sauce. Because he had tested positive for TB. Whoa.

Tuberculosis is still amongst us and not just in in India, China, and Russia which have over 50% of the world’s cases of TB; or in the  developing world where drug-resistant TB is a

Just yesterday the Las Vegas Journal Review reported:

A case of contagious tuberculosis at the state’s second-largest school drew much attention as blood tests were given to 325 Coronado High School students and staff, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the results.


13 Responses to "Despite John Wayne, Tuberculosis Is Still Around"
liberalarts | Saturday December 14, 2013 10:42 am 1

People seem to believe diseases go extinct. Diseases do not. We may, pathogens will not.

ThingsComeUndone | Saturday December 14, 2013 10:45 am 2

Drug resistant TB is probably the one reason we will one day get national healthcare. The disease is drug resistant and may one day be completely immune to any drug plus it spreads fast. After enough 1%ers die someone will figure out that with national healthcare and paid sick days more people will get tested and the faster people get tested the sooner they get put on quarantine.

Elliott | Saturday December 14, 2013 11:21 am 3

A friend’s mother grew up in a TB sanitarium because her mother was infected, not your usual childhood, to be sure.

ComradeRutherford | Saturday December 14, 2013 12:40 pm 4

“a central plot point”

In the opera, “La Boheme”

liberalarts | Saturday December 14, 2013 12:48 pm 5
In response to ComradeRutherford @ 4

Ah, but that wasn’t tuberculosis, it was consumption. (:

dakine01 | Saturday December 14, 2013 01:06 pm 6

My mother had TB but did not have to go to a sanitarium.

dakine01 | Saturday December 14, 2013 02:03 pm 7

Book Salon up with Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War hosted by Hugh Wilford.

MBouffant | Saturday December 14, 2013 02:15 pm 8

When I was w/o a house or apartment in 2008 I had to take a TB test at the L.A. County Public Health Dep’t. to be able to sleep in a shelter.

lawguy | Saturday December 14, 2013 02:36 pm 9

When my parents went into an assisted living facility about 10 years ago my father tested positive. Further tests turned out to be negative. But we figure that originally the basic test isn’t as completely accurate as a second test. His sister had had TB, but we could never figure out how he got in the army, since the initial tests seem to always come back positive.

liberalarts | Saturday December 14, 2013 02:45 pm 10
In response to lawguy @ 9

I think the initial test is for exposure and subsequent tests for infection.

Lisa Derrick | Saturday December 14, 2013 05:40 pm 11
In response to liberalarts @ 5

Same thing! TB was called “consumption” because it “consumed” the person, they lost weight, became thin, and wasted away.

liberalarts | Saturday December 14, 2013 06:53 pm 12
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 11

I was going to let this slide but I just couldn’t. I know that. Mimi, and Violetta. Not to mention how many heart wrenching death scenes in novels? A standard plot device. Vivian Leigh was consumptive.

Consumption is insidious in part because it develops slowly and people can be actively contagious for quite a while before they know they’re sick. A friend’s MD uncle was sick for about a yr before he knew it. Gained a few pounds and looked in the pink of health. Ta-da, TB. My primary and I have an ongoing argument about public enemy pathogen number one: he says AIDS, I say TB. And, TB and AIDS are perfect together, opportunistic contagions which can co-exist like an old, confortable married couple. And TB can get into almost any organ. I’m not sure there’s an organ it can’t affect. Heart, maybe?

It’s a scourge among native Americans and the Arctic people.

Lisa Derrick | Monday December 16, 2013 04:05 am 13
In response to liberalarts @ 12


TB is making a comeback on Skid Row in Los Angeles. With HIV/AIDs, you know what you can do/no do to avoid infection, but with TB not so much.

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