This year’s outbreak of coronavirus and a difficult influenza season remind us how our families and neighbors count on their local hospital to be available should serious illness strike. Helping hospitals prepare for dangerous outbreaks and pandemics has been an all-too-regular Wisconsin Hospital Association action item; in 1952 and again in 2015 it was Zika. In 2014 it was Ebola and Bird Flu.
The early years of WHA featured battles against infamous diseases like polio, whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus. While hospitals and health systems now combat those historic illness more proactively through vaccinations, the 21st century’s emergence of “anti-vaxxers” means today’s hospitals still must prepare for diseases both current and historic.
The first pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine was developed in the 1930s and was in widespread use by the mid-1940s, when pertussis vaccine was combined with diphtheria and tetanus toxoids to make the combination DTP vaccine. In 1954 the polio vaccine was developed and widely administered to American schoolchildren.
In the last 100 years, Wisconsin’s hospitals and health systems have been at their best while preparing for and dealing with the worst.