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A Look Back: Typhoid Fever

As the 19th century transitioned into the 20th, typhoid fever was taking the lives of more Alabamians, including people living here in Morgan County, than any other disease.  

Positive developments were going on overseas leading ultimately to the virtual eradication of this disease in industrialized countries, but many lives would be lost before those treatments – and their successors, developed by American medical scientists – would remove the typhoid virus as a major threat to Alabamians.  

Even before anti-typhoid vaccines were available, some people had mild cases and survived. However, others had severe forms and had their lives cut short as a result. 

July 24, 1910Carrie Lindsey, daughter of Hartselle Judge W. B. Lindsey, returned from Birmingham today suffering from typhoid fever. Miss Lindsey has been in the employ of the Southern Bell Telephone Company as an operator.  

Typhoid fever was not always fatal. Carrie, later Mrs. Hutchinson, was still living in 1960 when I had a room in the same boarding house where she resided in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Hutchinson had retired from a long career in the federal civil service several years previously. 

May 21, 1911—Long-time Hartselle resident W. B. Isley died this morning at 8:20 at his home six miles west of town. His death occurred suddenly, although he had been sick with typhoid fever about two weeks, but was getting along so nicely no grave fears were entertained. Mr. Isley was just in the prime of manhood, a man of fixed principles that he stood ready to defend. Intelligent, honest and always on the moral side, his loss is keenly felt. He was a Mason and a Woodman. 

Feb. 2, 1915It is reported there are now more than 20 cases of typhoid fever in the Somerville beat – and, it is said, there is much alarm there. There are also a number of cases reported in the Eva beat. Dr. R. B. Dodson, of the Eva precincthas just reported to Dr. J. L. Gunter, county health officer, that there are 30 or more cases of typhoid fever in his locality. Everyone in the Decaturs is boiling water. The schoolchildren are taking with them to school bottles of boiled water by the direction of the school boards. The water supply at the public schools was cut off several days ago.  

Feb. 17, 1915In the opinion of Dr. T. J. Russell of Valhermosa Springs, the typhoid fever in Morgan County at this time is directly traceable to Huntsville. Dr. Russell says the first case of typhoid fever at Valhermosa was last July, and the case was a man who had visited Huntsville, where there were a number of cases of typhoid at that time. Physicians are of the opinion that the water of the Tennessee river became infected from the Valhermosa community during recent overflows.  

Finally, anti-typhoid inoculations become available locally after being in existence for more than two decades. 

June 30, 1923As a precautionary measure, the Morgan County health office is busy giving the free anti-typhoid inoculations throughout the county. Friday Ella Dale of the health office was in Massey, and Wednesday Dr. McCree, the Hartselle-based county health officer, was at Cluka, up the Tennessee River a few miles from the Twin Cities, giving anti-typhoid inoculations. 

June 20, 1929—Already nearly 2,000 Morgan County citizens have been inoculated against typhoid fever during the drive now being conducted by health officials to give the preventive treatment to all freely who will accept it.