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  • Chaska Historical Society

Diseases Present in Chaska History...

from 'Will you live to be 100? A Retrospective on Health and Wellness in Chaska'

…More on influenza, la grippe…

There were 12 influenza pandemics in the 19th century, the major global pandemic in 1890 was the Russian Influenza. Influenza is highly contagious and can spread rapidly from person to person via unprotected sneezes by the infected people. The contaminated hands of an infected person can also spread the virus.

Symptoms: sudden fever, sore throat, body aches and headache. Influenza can also affect the bronchi and the lungs. Most people recover from influenza.

Death occurs from pneumonia and pulmonary complications. Most deaths among the elderly, but mortality is among all age groups.

Between 2018 and 2019 28,000 people in the United States died from influenza, and between 2019 and 2020 25,000 people died.

…More on diphtheria…

Diphtheria was often referred to as the children’s plague.

Symptoms include extreme sore throat, fever and a gray membrane grows over lining of the throat often causing difficulty with breathing and suffocation.

40% death rate among those who contracted it.

…More on rabies…

Symptoms can lay dormant for 1 to 3 months. If bitten by a suspicious animal, for example, a coyote, skunk, bat or fox, or an unknown domestic animal, seek medical help immediately.

The virus affects the brain.

Symptoms begin with fever, weakness, tingling throughout the central nervous system. As symptoms develop: insomnia, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, salivating and difficulty swallowing. Then leading to coma, heart or lung failure.

The first vaccine for rabies was developed in 1885 by Louis Pasteur.

…More on scarlet fever/scarlatina/strep…

Scarlet fever occurs most frequently in children ages 5-15 years.

Symptoms: fever, headache, sore throat, if untreated as the disease develops a red rash will appear. These symptoms are easily treated by antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the disease toxic shock can occur leading to multi-organ failure. Other untreated cases have led to rheumatic fever.

Between 1820 and 1880 there was a world pandemic of scarlet fever.

…More on measles…

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases.

Prior to the vaccine major epidemics occurred approximately every 2-3 years

Symptoms occur 10 – 12 days after exposure to the virus and last 4 – 7 days. Early symptoms include runny nose, cough, watery eyes small white spots inside the cheeks. Rash erupts after several days.

Serious complications include blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, dehydration and respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia.

Unvaccinated children: 1 or 2 children out of 1,000 cases will die from measles. 1 out of 20 will develop pneumonia and 1 out of 1,000 will develop encephalitis. Unvaccinated adults older than 20 are likely to develop serious complications.

…More on chicken pox/ shingles…

Symptoms: rash occurs 10 – 21 days after exposure and lasts 5 -10 days, other symptoms may include fever, loss of appetite, headache and tiredness. Can lead to other health problems such as pneumonia, toxic shock, and Reye’s syndrome, which can occur when a child or teen takes aspirin while infected. Reye’s syndrome causes swelling in the brain and liver.

…More on polio…

Those infected with polio but are asymptomatic can spread the virus for several days or weeks.

1927 the tank respirator was invented, known as the iron lung. The machine was used for those who could no longer breathe because their chest muscles were paralyzed. The iron lung was used until the person could breathe on their own. Without the iron lung death was imminent.

There are two types of polio infections: 1. The paralytic infection from which children may be free from symptoms for 1-3 days followed by major illness with paralysis, fever and muscle pain. Paralysis is asymmetrical but is often permanent. 2. Nonparalytic polio has more severe flu like symptoms than the paralytic polio, but does not cause paralysis and usually resolves.

…More on mumps…

After exposure symptoms occur anywhere from 16 – 25 days.

Symptoms include, pain, tenderness of the salivary glands, headache, fever, tiredness and lack of appetite.

Complications occur more frequently in unvaccinated adults, but are rare. Complications include orchitis (inflammation of the male reproductive organs, very painful), oophoritis (inflammation of the ovaries), mastitis (inflammation of mammary glands, very painful), meningitis and hearing loss.

…More on whooping cough/pertussis…

Symptoms may occur 7- 10 days after exposure, but onset can occur up to 21 days.

Symptoms: Early symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, low grade fever, if any, and a mild cough. As the disease develops the cough become more frequent and more severe. The cough is characterized by a high pitched whooping sound. Attacks of coughing are frequent and usually last 1 to 6 weeks but can last up to 10 weeks.

The most common complication is pneumonia.

1940’s the pertussis vaccine was combined with the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines. (DPT)

…More on small pox…

The inoculation process for small pox was taught to Cotton Mather in Boston in 1721 by Onesimus, a West African, who was enslaved by Mather.

During the Revolutionary War small pox ravaged the Continental Army. George Washington ordered the inoculation for all Continental soldiers in 1777. The inoculation consisted of removing pus from a pox of an infected person and injecting it into a healthy person. The person injected with the small pox would get a mild case of the small pox, but would then be immune to the disease. After injection the patient had to be isolated because they would have an active case of small pox.

1800’s one out of every 10 children died from small pox. Those that survived often were marked by deep pitted scars.

After exposure to small pox symptoms occur in 12 – 14 days. Symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, headache, back pain and can include abdominal pain and vomiting, pustules or pox.

In 1949 a small pox case was reported in Carver County. Weekly Valley Herald January 12, 1949.

Small pox is the only disease that has been eradicated.

…More on lockjaw/tetanus…

Tetanus enters the body through breaks in the skin, usually caused by wounds obtained outdoors, such as puncture wounds and wounds with significant tissue damage.

Symptoms occur in 2 – 14 days. The disease causes painful and violent muscular contractions, often affecting the jaw muscles and neck, which is why it is frequently referred to as lock jaw.

Complications can be airway obstruction, respiratory arrest, heart failure, pneumonia, fractures and brain damage which occurs due to lack of oxygen during spasms.

…More on cholera…

After exposure it can take a few hours or up to 5 days for symptoms to appear.

Cholera was prevalent in the United States in the 1800’s especially in small midwestern towns. While large cities had a high number of cholera deaths, relative to the population, small towns were more affected by cholera than the large cities. The source of water in small towns tended to come from unclean water, such as rivers and shallow wells. Small towns downstream from larger cities were especially susceptible to cholera outbreaks.

Cholera is often a mild disease, but can be an acute diarrheal illness. 1 in 10 people who become sick with cholera develop rapid loss of body fluids from severe diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps. Because of the rapid loss of body fluids death can occur within hours of onset of the disease.

The most beneficial treatment for cholera patients is the continuous replacement of fluids. The most common fluid replacement is a solution of sugar and salts mixed with water.

Resources used:


LaGrippe, J.E. Gilcreest, M.D. 1899.

1889-1890 pandemic

Public Health Reports 1901

Pan American Health Organization, Influenza and other respiratory viruses,


Case Western Reserve, Dittrick Medical History Center, Deadly Diptheria: the children’s plague.


NIH National Library of Medicine, Developments in Rabies vaccines

World Health Organization, Rabies,

WEB M.D Rabies,

CDC Historical Perspectives A Centennial Celebration: Pasteur and the Modern Era of Immunization,

Scarlet fever:

American Society for Microbiology, Scarlet Fever: A Deadly History and How it Prevails

Mass Amherst Scarlet fever epidemics of the nineteenth century: a case of evolved pathogenic virulence,


World Health Organization, Measels,

CDC, Measles,

Chicken pox/shingles:

CDC, Chicken pox,

Mayo Clinic, Chickenpox,


CDC. Achievements in Public Health 1900- 1999 Impact of Vaccines,

National Museum of American History, The Iron Lung and Other Equipment,


CDC, mumps,

Whooping cough/ Pertussis

NIH National Library of Medicine, Pertusis: History of the Disease and Current Prevention Failure.

CDC, Pertussis

Small pox:

CDC. Achievements in Public Health 1900- 1999 Impact of Vaccines,

World Health Organization, Small pox,

National Park Service, Smallpox, inoculation, and the Revolutionary War.

Lock jaw/tetanus

CDC, Tetanus,

PennMedicine, Tetanus,


National Library of Medicine, The Black Cholera Comes to the Central Valley of America in the 19th Century,

CDC- Vibrio cholerae infection,


National Library of Medicine, The chronicle of influenza epidemics,

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