10 Modern-Day Ailments That Would Have Killed You 100 Years Ago

Photo of author
Updated:

A little more than a century ago, males might expect to live 48.4 years, while women could expect to live to 54 years. Improved medical care, cleanliness, and diet have all contributed to a general increase in human longevity during the last century.

Do you realize how many diseases and infections that killed our ancestors are eradicated completely or much less fatal today? Chronic non-infectious illnesses, including heart disease and cancer, have surpassed infectious diseases as the leading causes of mortality. Keep reading to see ten deadly ailments that don’t kill us (as much) anymore. 

1. Polio

Polio - DP
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

The poliovirus is responsible for a debilitating and sometimes fatal viral illness known as polio. Paralysis may result from the virus’s invasion of the brain and spinal cord, which can be transmitted from person to person. The polio vaccine was important in eradicating the disease in the United States, and its continuous usage has ensured that the country remains polio-free. However, polio remains a problem in other regions. The best approach to stop polio from spreading again is to vaccinate all newborns and young children. 

2. Influenza

Influenza - DP
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Like we’re still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, people in 1923 were devastated by the 1918 influenza pandemic. Even though we can’t predict flu pandemics any better than we could a century ago, many scientific advances give us a big head start on limiting severe illness and death from current and future flu viruses. These include the identification and characterization of the 1918 virus itself and its viral descendants, the development of vaccines that are only moderately effective, and better ways to diagnose and treat flu.

3. Smallpox

Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Since 1500, smallpox has plagued mankind. Smallpox impacted history and killed millions. Orthopoxvirus variola virus causes smallpox. Only humans carry this virus. It spreads by respiratory droplets or mucous membrane contact. 1950 was the first large-scale smallpox eradication attempt in the Americas. The World Health Assembly called for smallpox elimination in 1958. The smallpox eradication declaration was made by the WHA in 1980.

4. Tetanus

Tetanus - DP
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Tetanus can be deadly and causes painful muscle stiffness and lockjaw. Parents used to tell us kids about tetanus every time we scratched, scraped, poked, or cut ourselves on something metal. The tetanus vaccine is now part of a vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). This vaccine is called DTaP.

5. Diptheria

Diphtheria - DP
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Thanks to the diphtheria vaccination given to infants, most of us only know about diphtheria as a rare illness from the distant past. The diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination is abbreviated DTaP. Diphtheria is still a problem despite being easily avoided. It may cause a thick coating at the back of the throat or nose, making it difficult to breathe or swallow. Heart failure, paralysis, and even death may result from diphtheria. 

6. Hepatitis B 

Hepatitis B  - DP
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Did you know that more than 780,000 people die each year from problems caused by Hepatitis B around the world? This is still many fewer than it used to kill. Hepatitis B is passed from person to person through blood or other body fluids. The hepatitis B virus can spread from a sick mother to her baby during birth, which makes it especially dangerous for babies. About 9 out of 10 babies who get it from their moms have chronic hepatitis. This is why babies should get their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine soon after they are born. Every pregnant woman should get checked, and every baby should get a shot.

7. Hepatitis A

Hepatitis - DP
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Since its introduction in 1995, the Hepatitis A vaccination has greatly reduced the incidence of the disease in the United States. Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that may be spread by interpersonal contact or ingesting contaminated food or water. Vaccinating your newborn against hepatitis A is a great approach to ensure he or she never gets the disease.

8. Typhoid 

Typhoid - DP
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Salmonella bacteria are responsible for typhoid fever, commonly known as enteric fever. In areas with a low prevalence of the typhi bacterium, cases of typhoid fever are uncommon. Places with sanitary water treatment and waste management systems have little typhoid. The United States is an area where typhoid fever is quite uncommon. Africa and South Asia are the most common regions for new infections or frequent outbreaks. It poses a significant health risk in more prevalent areas, particularly among youngsters.

9. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis - DP
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Tuberculosis, often known as consumption, is a bacterial illness that mostly affects the lungs. It was the leading cause of mortality in the United States during the 20th century. The “Great White Plague” (named for the great pallor of those infected) was the most dreaded sickness of all time, killing people of all social classes and ages over the globe. It seemed that nobody was immune to TB.

The American Lung Association was originally created in 1904 as the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis by a young doctor named Edward Livingston Trudeau.  In 1950, Dr. Edith Lincoln discovered that administering isoniazid to those living with tuberculosis patients stopped the transmission of illness to those individuals.

10. Scarlet Fever

sick woman with ice pack on head
Image Credit: RyanKing999 | Canva

This disease was characterized by a red rash all over the body, a sore throat, fever, vomiting, and enlargement of the parotid glands. It was one of the biggest killers in 1923 in the U.S. The diagnosis and treatment of scarlet fever have changed considerably during the last several centuries.

Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria generate a toxin historically responsible for widespread sickness and high death rates worldwide. After some time, it was easily controlled and treated with antibiotics. Post-pandemic, there has been a scarlet fever boom, highlighting the need to stay on top of tracking infectious diseases. 

9 Signs You’re Smarter Than Average and Three Signs You’re Not

smart woman thinking red background
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Do you think you’re smarter than most of the population? Check out these signs to see if you make the cut or if you should go back to school. 

9 Signs You’re Smarter Than Average and Three Signs You’re Not

Some Things Disappeared After the Pandemic and People Are Sharing What They Miss Most

sad friends
Image Credit: Canva.

We’ve all noticed that some things disappeared after the pandemic. We’ve compiled a list of what readers from a popular online community miss the most.

Some Things Disappeared After the Pandemic and People Are Sharing What They Miss Most

Y2K Bug and Other Near-Disaster Events Gen Z Knows Nothing About

surprised woman with pink hair blue background
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

In a world where information is at our fingertips, it’s easy to forget the near-disasters of the past that had us on the edge of our seats. Today’s Gen Z might be well-versed in the latest trends and technologies, but there are significant events from the past that may have slipped under their radar. These are the near-disasters that had the world in a grip of fear, yet, fortunately, didn’t cause the anticipated devastation. How many of these do you remember?

Y2K Bug and Other Near-Disaster Events Gen Z Knows Nothing About

15 Accidental Inventions the World Can’t Live Without

surprised or scared woman
Image Credit: Billion Photos | Canva

Most groundbreaking inventions take years of painstaking work to be developed and refined. On the other hand, some of the most life-changing inventions have happened by accident. It’s a little bit terrifying how inventions and discoveries that have saved millions of lives only occurred because some observant individual noticed something strange. If you don’t believe it, read on. 

15 Accidental Inventions the World Can’t Live Without

“People Actually Like That?” Read the Opinionated (And Sometimes Humorous) Responses

confused woman - DP
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

With eight billion people on the planet, we’re bound to have different thought processes than many people around us. Recently, an internet reader asked, “What is something you can’t believe people like?” and the answers hit home. Here’s what fellow readers had to say about the things they don’t like, even though others obviously do.

“People Actually Like That?” Read the Opinionated (And Sometimes Humorous) Responses

+ posts

Demi Michele is a seasoned traveler, turned freelance writer. Having explored most states and ventured internationally, her love for outdoor cafes, new cuisines, and cultural immersion shines through her wide range of articles. Based in Texas with her family and two Scottish Terriers, Demi turns her adventures into captivating travel narratives to share with readers.