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[Perspectives] Typhoid fever

For generations of physicians, typhoid was one of a broad class of fevers linked to putrid air, best treated with bed rest, strengthening foods, and traditional standbys such as laudanum and bloodletting. By the end of the 19th century this view had been swept away: epidemiologists and bacteriologists disentangled typhoid from typhus and other fevers, and reframed it in terms of the presence or absence of a microorganism. But 20th-century public health campaigns discovered the limitations of a strictly scientific approach, and the tensions between treating an individual patient and addressing infectious diseases at the level of cities or nations.

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