Dakota Datebook

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or TB, was once the leading cause of death in the United States, and it still causes death today. The germs, spread from person to person through the air, usually affect the lungs, but TB can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys, or the spine.


On this date in 1951, people were talking about a decision by the North Dakota Department of Health to send two mobile X-Ray machines into communities, to test for the disease in an effort to catch it early and wipe out the threat. The program was free, and each person was promised a confidential report, sent to them two weeks after the x-ray of their chest.


According to an article in The Center Republican, the Department of Health planned to visit sixteen counties, tentatively hitting Oliver County around June. They set a goal of taking 1800 x-rays in Oliver County, and people from neighboring counties were also welcome.


Using x-ray to identify TB was a relatively new technology, though similar testing had been done a few years before. Some Q-and-As in the newspaper offered additional information. It was stated as necessary for individuals over the age of 50 to be tested, though the Health Department sought to test people of all ages…especially those fifteen and older.


Also, individuals were reassured that they did not have to undress, though it was cautioned that “blouses with sequin decorations or metallic nailheads will interfere with the reading of the x-ray picture” and would have to be removed.


Even today, the disease is not wiped out and can be deadly – but thanks to medical advances, treatments are available, and the outlook in many areas is much improved.


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker




Center Republican, Thursday, May 17, 1951


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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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