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J Hist Med Allied Sci. 2014 Jan;69(1):3-37. doi: 10.1093/jhmas/jrs005. Epub 2012 Apr 5.

Scientific strategy and ad hoc response: the problem of typhoid in America and England, C. 1910-50.

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Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH, UK.


In the early twentieth century, death rates from typhoid in European cities reached an all time low. By contrast, death rates in America were six times as high, and the American public health community began a crusade against the disease in 1912. In the 1920s, hopes for greater control of the disease focused not just on sewers and drinking water supplies, but on the newly established scientific means of immunization, the supervision of food-related pathways of infection, and the management of healthy carriers. The management of carriers, which lay at the core of any typhoid control program, proved an intractable problem, and typhoid remained a public health concern. America and England both struggled with control of the disease during the interwar period. Coming from different starting points, however, their approaches to the problem differed. This paper compares and contrasts these different public health strategies, considers the variable quality of support provided by bacteriological laboratories, and demonstrates that "accidental" typhoid outbreaks continued to happen up to the outbreak of World War II.


American Public Health Association; bacteriology; carriers; education; immunization; laboratories; milk; oysters; pasteurization; typhoid

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