Until the late 19th century, diphtheria was a gruesome killer with no known cause and many ineffective treatments. The disease was highly contagious and it came in the formation of a thick gray membrane in a child’s throat making it difficult to breathe. Fever and weakness also accompanied the growth and quite often resulted in death. In the spring of 1913, Behring developed a vaccine against diphtheria. On May 15, 1914, a short article reported that the French newspaper Le Matin had declared the serum one of “the Seven Wonders of the modern world.”
Carleton Place Herald 1897: Strange as it may appear, the false report that “diphtheria had broken out in Carleton Place” was only corrected when a man named McCaffery of Drummond about 15 miles from Carleton Place, drove into town with a boy named Jones, son of John Jones of Eganville, who said he was suffering from a sore throat.
He was taken to Dr. McFarlane’s office and after examination Dr. McFarlane pronounced the disease diphtheria and advised the man to remove the boy as soon as possible and gave him the necessary medical advice. The man left muttering something about leaving him in the hands of authorities and virtually abandoned him to the mercies of the doctor and the town of Carleton Place.
The former notified the Board of Health who – naturally feeling indignant abut the matter—took action at once, securing a vacant house on the outskirts of town which was converted into a hospital, secured a trained nurse and now after a week—we are pleased to inform our readers the little patient is doing well. It is rather unfortunate that the town should be made to shoulder a case of this kind from the outside.
Daily Mail and Empire – May 7, 1897
The three-year-old daughter of Mr. Wm. Watchorn, jr., (on the Bellamy Road) died of diphtheria on Tuesday. Two other children, down with the same dread trouble, are progressing favorably.
—An outbreak of diphtheria has occurred at Combermere. Nine families are down with the disease.
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Some believed open drains, dirt roads and streets strewn with manure caused the diphtheria epidemics