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(September 5, 1900 - August 31, 1988)
Measles, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio... These are all dreadful diseases, but none claimed as many young lives in the United States in the1920s as whooping cough. Whooping cough is an upper respiratory infection, often beginning quite mildly. The initial common cold-like symptoms worsen over the first couple of weeks, resulting in the production of thick mucus and severe coughing bouts. The coughing bouts cause children to lose their breath, turn red, and sometimes vomit. At the end of the bout, the child may desperately suck in air, resulting in the "whooping" noise for which the disease is named. Potentially life-threatening complications include dehydration, pneumonia, pulmonary hypertension (a restriction of the arteries within the lungs), and bacterial infections.
At its height, whooping cough claimed over 6,000 lives each year in the United States. Remarkably, during the 1940s, it was responsible for the deaths of more infants than polio, measles, tuberculosis, and all other childhood diseases combined. Chicago officials were so alarmed that they required infected children, following a two-week quarantine period, to be accompanied by an attendant and to wear a yellow armband with the words "Whooping Cough" written in large black letters on it.
1 Marks HM (2006). The Kendrick-Eldering-(Frost) pertussis vaccine field trial. The James Lind Library (www.jameslindlibrary.org). Accessed Tuesday 9 September 2008.
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The Michigan Women's Hall of Fame profile:
Michigan.gov profile of Eldering and Kendrick:
BNET article detailing Eldering & Kendrick's Grand Rapids pertussis trials:
jameslindlibrary.org summary of the Grand Rapids pertussis trials:
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