Colorado's Healthcare Heritage

Updates to Volume One — 1894

1894: The First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) was fought over the issue of the control of Korea.

Diphtheria Antitoxin

In November 1894, the first shipment of the antitoxin for the treatment of diphtheria — which had been discovered in 1890 by German physiologist Adolf Emil von Behring, MD — arrived in Denver. Dr. William Munn, Denver's health commissioner, wrote this for the January 1898 issue of the Colorado Medical Journal:
In 1893 there were reported 178 cases of diphtheria with a morality of 20 per cent., 19 of these cases were cases of laryngeal involvement and 16 died. Early intubation and early antitoxin reduced this to 9 and 10 per cent. for the years 1895 and 1896.

In 1895, when antitoxin was introduced into Denver, 123 cases were treat by antitoxin and 9 died, while 125 were treated without antitoxin and 31 died. Antitoxin lessens the anxiety of the physician so markedly that its place is too well established to be assailed.
In 1902, J. Elvin Courtney, MD — assistant in neurology at Denver and Gross College of Medicine — cited updated diphtheria mortality statistics for Denver for the six-year periods before and after the introduction of the diphtheria antitoxin in Denver in November 1894:

Year
Cases
Deaths
Mortality
1889
233
109
46.5%
1890
720
277
38.6%
1891
468
175
37.4%
1892
300
89
29.6%
1893
318
106
33.3%
1894
233
71
28.7%
Totals
2,272
827
36.4%
 
1895
248
40
16.1%
1896
246
19
7.7%
1897
297
43
14.5%
1898
386
34
8.81%
1899
257
25
9.72%
1900
207
14
6.76%
Totals
1,641
175
10.66%

The statistics were provided by Augustus A. Clough, MD (University of Denver College of Medicine, Class of 1886), health commissioner for the City of Denver. (Denver Medical Times, September 1902, pg. 179)

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