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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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TYPHOID. Typhoid fever, also known as Salmonella Typhi or commonly just typhoid, is a common worldwide illness, transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with feces from an infected person. In the late 19th century, typhoid fever mortality rate in Chicago averaged 65 per 100,000 people a year. The worst year was 1891, when the typhoid death rate was 174 per 100,000 people.

The incidence of typhoid fever in the United States has decreased since the early 1900s. Today, less than 500 cases are reported annually in the United States, mostly in people who recently traveled to endemic areas. This is in comparison to the 1920s, when over 35,000 cases were reported in the U.S. This improvement is the result of improved environmental sanitation. Mexico and South America are the most common areas for U.S. citizens to contract typhoid fever. India, Pakistan, and Egypt are also known high-risk areas for developing this disease. Worldwide, typhoid fever affects more than 13 million people annually, with over 500,000 patients dying of the disease.

Sanitation and hygiene are the critical measures that can be taken to prevent typhoid. Typhoid does not affect animals and therefore transmission is only from human to human. Typhoid can only spread in environments where human feces or urine are able to come into contact with food or drinking water. Careful food preparation and washing of hands are crucial to preventing typhoid.

In 1903 Dubuque physicians attempted to rally public awareness of the disease and its causes. Citing the thirty-six deaths over three weeks in December, the physicians claimed that there would be ninety percent fewer cases if the consumption of well and cistern water was stopped. In an editorial they stated that the health department should regard it a duty it owes the public to condemn wells in which typhoid germs were found.