A Plague from Last Century Speaks Loudly in the Present

February 6, 2015 8:34 PM

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My grandmother, who lived well into her 90s, contracted tuberculosis as a young mother. She spent several lonely years in Saranac Lake, NY while her husband struggled to earn a living and her children were shuffled from relative to relative. She was not alone. According to The Forgotten Plague: The Deadly Story of Tuberculosis and the Hunt for a Cure - airing on PBS stations on February 10 - my grandmother was among the one in every 170 Americans who lived in exile in sanatoriums. She was, however, one of the lucky ones. She survived.

The PBS documentary, part of the American Experience series, is airing during a heated debate over vaccinations and the unlikely reappearance of measles in the US. A nasty disease considered by most of us to have gone the way of smallpox, measles has aroused fear and anger nationwide. We all might d...

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