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Using nursing history to inform decision-making: Infectious diseases at the turn of the 20th century

Published:November 22, 2015DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.outlook.2015.11.011

      Abstract

      Background

      This historical paper examines the impact of infectious diseases on the urban poor of Chicago and New York a century ago, before most vaccines were developed.

      Purpose

      Working on the front lines of health promotion and health care, nurses and other providers are charged with informing the public about offered vaccines. The intent of this paper is to supplement providers’ knowledge about vaccination with an appreciation of the devastation these diseases once caused.

      Method

      Historical methodology guided this study in which archival and oral sources were used.

      Discussion

      The continued outbreaks of smallpox at the turn of the twentieth century, when a vaccine was available, may be compared with the re-emergence of measles today. Additionally, this paper shows the devastation caused by other, non-preventable, infections of the period.

      Conclusions

      Awareness of the history related to the impact of infectious diseases, especially the role nurses played in decision-making related to care, is critical for today's health care providers.

      Keywords

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