100 years ago today: Dying for drugs

One hundred years ago today Walter Wyman died as a result of a carbuncle. Wyman had access to the best medical care in the United States, perhaps the best medical care in the world. He was surgeon-general of the United States Public Heath and Marine Hospital Service. Details of Wyman\’s illness can be read in CARBUNCLE KILLS HEAD OF PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE (The Washington Herald, Nov. 21 1911) and DR. WALTER WYMAN DEAD (The Boston Evening Transcript, Nov. 21 1911).

It is easy for us to forget now deadly boils, abscesses, carbuncles and even small cuts could be in a world without penicillin, sulfa or all the other drugs we now have access to. Wyman had been hospitalized for other reasons but it was the infections that resulted from the carbuncle that killed him. This was not at all unusual in 1911 and even today people in the \”western world\” still die of sepsis.

Next time you (or someone else) is fantasizing about how well you (or they) would fare \”come the apocalypse\” remember that even those with the guns and the food stores are likely to be brought low not by other human beings but by simple blood poisoning. Or measles. Or mumps. Or influenza. Or rabies. Or tetanus. Or……


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