Kissing Can be Dangerous: The Public Health Campaigns to Prevent and Control Tuberculosis in Western Australia, 1900-1960
In the first half of the twentieth century in Western Australia, the social consequences of tuberculosis were almost as confronting as the disease itself. Tuberculosis not only caused physiological changes that were often fatal, but affected relationships with everyone: family, friends, colleagues and the entire community. Until the advent of chemotherapy in 1947, people with the disease were advised to adopt a way of living that would protect those with whom they came in contact. Public health practitioners saw prevention through practising bodily self-control as the only acceptable, and available, weapon against tuberculosis. Kissing and close contact with a person infected with tuberculosis were absolutely forbidden.
Drawing on oral histories of patients and doctors, as well as archival research, Kissing Can Be Dangerous reveals the way in which social and cultural perceptions of tuberculosis - as well as the biological effects - shaped the experience of the tuberculosis sufferer, and the response of the Public Health Department to the disease. This history of tuberculosis in Western Australia begins with the understanding of tuberculosis as an infectious disease and examines the way in which public health physicians in the State ultimately managed to reframe the attitude of physicians and the public to the disease.
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