AT FIRST blush the symposium title is arresting—and perhaps an odd one to many whose practice is limited to the diseases of children. Animals are prone to diseases. These diseases may affect man, and adults would appear to be more frequently involved than children. However, animal diseases transmissible to man and called the zoonoses, are becoming more obvious in their frequency because of the changing character of infections during the past 50 years—and children contract the zoonoses frequently enough to warrant consideration.
The beginning of the present century seemed to usher in a change in the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases and particularly the so-called "common communicable diseases of childhood." It was certainly true for diseases of bacterial etiology relating to both morbidity and mortality whereas the incidence of several viral diseases such as chickenpox, measles, rubella and mumps remained the same, but the sting of complications and the threat of death were markedly reduced. The latter is well illustrated in Table I, which shows a comparison of death rates for certain diseases using the years 1900, 1925 and 1950 as mileposts. Deaths are chosen as a measure because case information is meager for the United States at large. The period between 1900 and 1925 was the era in which rapid strides were being made toward an improvement of community hygiene, while a consciousness of the importance of personal hygiene became evident around 1910. Between 1925 and 1950 the likely influences were an improved economy, better housing and more adequate nutrition for the general population.
- Copyright © 1958 by the American Academy of Pediatrics