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November 1948

INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Fourteenth Annual Review of Significant Publications

Author Affiliations


From the Jefferson Medical College.

Arch Intern Med (Chic). 1948;82(5):468-516. doi:10.1001/archinte.1948.00220280051005

THE GREAT DECLINE in the incidence of infectious diseases and in the death rate among patients with such diseases in the past fifty years is an obvious fact. In a calculation of the mortality rate among policy holders of a large life insurance company,1 new low rates in 1947 are reported for whooping cough, diphtheria, influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, syphilis and appendicitis. For pneumonia alone the death rate has declined 70 per cent since 1937, when chemotherapy, soon followed by antibiotic therapy, began to be used generally. There is nothing at present which threatens to stem the downward trend to what eventually will be an irreducible minimum. According to Gordon,2 who discusses the influence of disease in war, the ratio of death from disease to deaths in battle gradually and irregularly declined from 7:1 in the Mexican War of 1846 to 0.4:1 in World War I to 0.01:1 in the last war.