Plumbing in Relation to Infectious Diseases

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The public health profession is rapidly reawakening to the importance of plumbing in the prevention of disease, as the result of the country-wide outbreak of amebic dysentery in 1933, which had a focus in two hotels in Chicago.

Efforts to stop the outbreak were, at first, directed toward the control of carriers, particularly among food handlers, in keeping with the then generally accepted belief that they were the principal, if not the only, means of spread. After these measures were found to be insufficient, a very careful study of the plumbing was made in the hotels involved, and it became clear that contamination of water through bad plumbing was the chief cause of the outbreak.

Correction of the hazards in the plumbing systems in the hotels was followed by the complete subsidence of the outbreak among the guests.

Regulation of plumbing was first begun as a health measure before the time of Pasteur.

Author Notes

President, Board of Health, Chicago, Ill.