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19th Century Public Health

Poor Living Conditions

The housing in the 19th century was incredibly bad. Many houses were poorly built, they were damp and unsafe. The rooms did not have lights, no ventilation, and some rooms had to house ten people. This led to part of the spreading of diseases. Many of the most common diseases that were going around during this period of time was cholera, typhoid and typhus. The life expectancy of the people living in these areas was over 40 years old. The insides of the houses did not have furniture, the families had a room each with one bed, which they all slept in together. Most houses had a fire place which was used for cooking and drying. A table and a chair were usually located in the middle of the room. This is what most people called a house.

Spread of Cholera
Cholera was a highly infectious and often a fatal intestinal disease. The first outbreak occurred October 1831-1833. The disease spread very rapidly killing twenty-two thousand people. The scariest part was how fast the disease could kill someone. The symptoms began with an attack of violent diahorrea and vomiting followed by intense cramps in the arms, legs and abdomen. Thirst and fever were also very common with this disease. After about three to twelve hours, the symptoms continued rapidly, the skin became dry and a hazy blue or purple in color. The persons eyes sank in their sockets, their pulse was almost impossible to feel, the voice became very hoarse. Death usually took place within a day sometimes a few hours. It was a very serious thing, and if you had been experiencing any of the symptoms, chances are that you were not going to live much longer.
Another outbreak occurred in 1848-1849 in which 50,000 people lost their lives. The number was actually closer to 70,000. Part of the reason the disease spread so rapidly was because of the unsanitary conditions. It was a very tragic time when anyone in your family could just one day wake up and live for only one more day or worse, a few hours.

Health Improvements made in the 19th Century

Later in the 19th century efforts were being made toward improving the public health. Medical Officers were appointed and helped improve the drainage systems, houses and streets. Two of the big medical advances during this time was the x-ray and vaccinations.

Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch led to the understanding that infections were caused by certain bacteria or germs. People began to understand the importance of good hygiene.

Florence Nightingale went on a mission to try and improve the conditions of hospitals.

Joseph Lister discovered that many infections were caught during a persons surgery. To prevent this he began to sterilize his equipment. This cut the amount of deaths caused by infections during an operation from 60% all the way down to 4%.

With these new understandings, a persons life expectancy began to increase, and the number of death rates slowly decreased.


 Did Not Die

Do not stand at my grave and forever weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.
I am not there. I did not die.

Melinda Sue Pacho


My Father, My Son
by Thomas
As a son I lost a father,
As a father, a son-
If the choice was mine I'd rather
Had not lost either one.
I do not know where I come from
Or where I am to go.
True, this fate is less than some
And more than some can know.
My father, my son - you both I miss
But we shall meet someday
In the kingdom where angels kiss
To chase the clouds away.