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Disease And Vaccinations In The Industrial Revolution

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The Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the advent of gross urbanization of factory towns and cities. Due to advancements in areas such as textiles and machinery, many people flocked from the countrysides of Europe (particularly Britain) to cities where they sought work was factory operators and machinists. To accommodate the tremendous influx of people, cheap and cramped housing was built, with communal wells provided for water. However, as there were few facilities for removing sewage, and the living conditions were deplorable, disease became rampant.

Typhoid fever, cholera, tuberculosis, smallpox and rabies were infectious agents which followed the bubonic plague, and found easy hosts in the unclean slums of Britain. The first significant step towards the prevention of infectious diseases came in eighteenth century due to the influences of Lady Mary Wortley Montague.

Lade Montague was the wife of the British Ambassador Extraordinary to the Turkish court. She had great influence within the aristocratic circles in England, and used them to her advantage when describing the benefits of inoculation. Lady Montague had previously encountered smallpox an experience which left her face heavily scarred and without eyelashes. She was determined not to have her children suffer the same fate, and traveled to Istanbul where inoculations were performed. The process was primitive and crude (it involved taking the matter from a smallpox scab and spreading over an open wound), yet it s purpose was served in protecting the receiver from the full dose of smallpox.

Lady Montague was able to persuade friends, who were doctors in England, of the benefits of inoculation. She was a leading member of London high society and was thus able to successfully campaign inoculation in England. Her influence led to the inoculation of many people, and mortality rates decreased dramatically; from 50.2% before inoculations to 4% after inoculations. However, these mortality rates were to further decrease when Edward Jenner of England discovered a vaccine for smallpox.

Smallpox was a ruthless disease which took over from the bubonic plague as the major cause of disease in the eighteenth century. Many died, and those who survived were left severely disfigured or blind. Inoculation was used as a method for gaining immunity, yet had many risks. It was often that the inoculation did not work and instead of a mild dose, the patient would die of the disease.

Edward Jenner worked as a doctor in the village of Berkeley in Gloucestershire. He observed local milkmaids and found that if they had suffered a similar, yet less deadly form of the smallpox virus (cowpox), they were immune to the actual smallpox virus. He tested his theory on a young boy by placing the cowpox matter into two cuts on his arm. He then infected the boy with the smallpox virus and realized he had made discovery when the boy did not fall ill. Thus, an important step was made due to the desperate need for preventative treatment, as well as the excellent observational skills of a doctor.

Other important discoveries were made by the mid nineteenth century by a man named Louis Pasteur. For centuries, doctors had tried to discover the causes of disease, and find a way to prevent them. Pasteur, a French chemist, was able to use the concepts of Jenner s work on vaccinations and develop his own vaccinations for anthrax (in animals) and rabies.

The Industrial Revolution had great influence on the development of vaccines for treatment of diseases. Due to the effects of large-scale urbanization, the medical world was pressed to find solutions to life-threatening diseases such as smallpox and rabies. Improvements upon existing preventative medicine, such as inoculations, was also an important part of the Revolution; although the Industrial Revolution brought many improvements in transport and machinery, it heightened the misery of thousands of people living in poor living conditions with no proper sanitation. It was due to the lack of sewage systems and sanitary conditions that disease became endemic, and was synonymous with the Revolution. The advent of vaccinations reduced mortality rates drastically, improving the quality of life for many.