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IPFS News Link • Science

How Science Conquered Diphtheria, the Plague Among Children

• arclein

Even Noah Webster, that master of words, did not have a name for the terrible sickness. "In May 1735," he wrote in A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases, "in a wet cold season, appeared at Kingston, an inland town in New-Hampshire, situated in a low plain, a disease among children, commonly called the 'throat distemper,' of a most malignant kind, and by far the most fatal ever known in this country." Webster noted the symptoms, including general weakness and a swollen neck. The disease moved through the colonies, he wrote, "and gradually travelled southward, almost stripping the country of children....It was literally the plague among children. Many families lost three and four children?"many lost all." And children who survived generally went on to die young, he wrote from his vantage point of more than half a century later. The "throat distemper" had somehow weakened their bodie