In the 1800s and 1900s, many people in the United States lived in poverty and filth. In small, overcrowded, dark houses with rats, roaches, mosquitoes, and other vermin. Streets were filled with sewage and garbage and dead animals—often as much as two to three feet deep in places like New York City. Food and drinking water were diseased.
People were malnourished. They didn’t have clean running water and flush toilets. When they became sick, they ended up in hospitals that were also dirty and unsanitary, lacking in basic hygiene such as handwashing and instrument sterilization and isolating the sick.
Many worked long hours in dirty, unsafe conditions, without fresh air, exercise, and rest. Even children labored to the point of illness and sometimes death. Epidemics were rampant, with millions dying from diseases like typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, diphtheria, pertussis, scarlet fever, measles, yellow fever, tuberculosis, puerperal fever, and smallpox. Mortality was high, and life expectancy was low.
This is the forgotten history. This is what was responsible for the spread of disease. This is the truth.
Then came the Sanitation Revolution. Everything changed. Sewage and waste was properly disposed of. Clean drinking water was mandated. Food was inspected and handled properly so it was no longer contaminated. Milk was pasteurized. Labor laws were passed to protect workers. Basic hygiene was implemented. The world was a cleaner, safer place.
Another piece of the forgotten history is the lost remedies. Vitamins, cinnamon, garlic, echinacea, jicama, fresh juice, apple cider vinegar, cod liver oil, silver, and other natural supplements were used to treat infectious diseases. And guess what? They worked very well.
The result? By 1940, measles, scarlet fever, pertussis, and diphtheria were practically a thing of the past. Scarlet fever—a bigger killer—vanished by the early 1900s, even before antibiotics were used to treat it. Tuberculosis, pneumonia, flu … same thing. Almost gone. When they surfaced, they were much milder. Mortality was rare. That’s a fact.
And this is important. This happened during a time when there was an almost zero vaccination rate.
As far back as the 1700s, although vaccines were being pushed, numerous medical journals questioned their safety and effectiveness. They cited the statistics. The mortality rates. The fact that they could be contaminated and often led to more disease than they prevented.
Doctors who spoke out were ignored and sometimes threatened. Parents who refused to obey vaccination laws were prosecuted, fined, and even imprisoned. Eventually, there were protests. And eventually, the laws began to change.
Here’s another fact. People who have healthy immune systems—because of basic necessities like sanitation, hygiene, clean water, and nutrition—are able to fight diseases. Vaccines do not cause immunity to disease and, in fact, harm the immune system. What makes you immune to a disease? The disease.
Fear is a powerful motivator. The thought of a child coming down with a “dreaded disease” is scary. The pictures of children in iron lungs—that frightening reminder of the crippling effects of the disease.
But what is missing, what we aren’t told, is that people who were crippled and paralyzed often suffered from something else, such as DDT or arsenic poisoning or even syphilis. We also aren’t told that polio was never eradicated with a vaccine.
The irony is that the very existence of a vaccine makes the fear greater. If there is a vaccine to prevent the disease, the disease must be pretty scary.