August 21, 1939: Manteno State Hospital Typhoid Epidemic; 2003: Anthony Andrews Water Intoxication

Old people were dumped at the hospital by their families

August 21, 1939:  Manteno State Hospital TyphoidEpidemic.A report written by the Illinois Department of Public Health “is concerned with various public-health aspects of an epidemic of typhoid fever which occurred in a State hospital for the mentally ill at Manteno, Illinois, in 1939, involving 453 cases  and resulting in 60 deaths. Although the epidemic began early in August, and continued into October, the material incorporated in the report was gathered, for the most part, subsequent to August 21, and the report covers  a period of several months after the subsidence of the epidemic…

A Department of Public Health sanitary engineer arrived at the institution on August 21 and proceeded with preliminary surveys on sanitary conditions at the institution. A Department of Public Health physician and a bacteriologist also arrived at the institution on August 21, and from that date through the remainder of the epidemic representatives of the Department of Public Health were present at the institution at all times. It soon became evident that a thorough and complete investigation of the cause of the epidemic, and the development and execution of measures to control it, would require the services of many persons experienced in public-health work…

Old People were dumped at the hospital by their families

As a result of these investigations, it appears that there was not only an outright leakage of sewage from the sanitary sewers into the creviced limestone, but also that this sewage seeped through the limestone and found its way into the wells which supplied the institution with water. Up until August 19, the water from these wells was pumped directly into the institution distribution system without treatment.”

Commentary:  Besides the tragedy of the typhoid fever epidemic, there were the additional tragedies of old people being dumped at the hospital after their families declined to care for them any longer. As far as I can tell, this was the last waterborne typhoid fever epidemic in the U.S. that resulted in multiple deaths. A later outbreak in a South Florida Labor Camp in January 1973 infected at least 173 people but no one died because of the improved medical care that was available at that time.

Anthony Andrews

August 21, 2003:  Actor Anthony Andrews almost dies of water intoxication. The Telegrapharticle. My Battle with the Bottle. “Actors must expect their excessive drinking habits to be breakfast table gossip, especially if they become too intoxicated to perform. But the curious case of Anthony Andrews, whose addiction to water almost killed him, must rank as one of the more bizarre forms of theatrical unwellness.

In a way, it would have been more understandable if Andrews had knocked himself out of the cast of My Fair Lady on vodka. The role of Professor Henry Higgins is a demanding one, and we can all think of actors who’ve lubricated their performances on stronger cordials than rose hip syrup. Not for Andrews the predictability of a few weeks in rehab with anything as common as alcohol abuse. He ended up, comatose, in intensive care for three days, with the dubious distinction of having put water on the nation’s list of dangerous substances.

“In my naivety, I’d never have thought in a million years that I was running the risk of killing myself with water,” he says. “I can hardly believe I am saying it. I thought I was the healthiest person in the world.”

Andrews has to rely on other people for the full account of his recent near-death experience. He has no recollection of what happened after signing autographs at the stage door in the West End and collapsing into his car after the second Saturday performance of My Fair Lady at the end of June. When he came round, three days later, surrounded by his loved ones, the muscles of his face and neck were locked and he was dimly aware that no one could quite make sense of what he was saying. On top of everything else, he’d developed an allergy….

As temperatures soared during the midsummer run of My Fair Lady, Andrews’s three-litres-a-day habit increased to five or six litres as he struggled to refresh his vocal cords. Parched, he would rush back to his dressing room between songs and glug another half-litre. On days when there was a matinee as well as an evening performance, he probably got through eight litres of water – all the while assuming he was doing himself good.”

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