1900-1920 Alarming situation

Tuberculosis and urbanization

The tuberculosis bacterium was discovered by Robert Koch in 1882. And with the advent of antibiotics still decades away, prevention was the method of choice for combating the disease. Before the 20th century people suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis were considered incurably ill and pulmonary tuberculosis was clearly the most common cause of death at the beginning of the 20th century. For a long time doctors’ only means of fighting against tuberculosis was informative enlightenment. For example, the population was instructed not to spit on the floor or in public places.

At the beginning of the 20th century Tampere had about 40,000 inhabitants, and certainly nearly all were infected with tuberculosis, but not everyone fell ill with the disease. Tuberculosis broke out among people who had lower resistance and/or constant, high exposure to the disease. In cities like Tampere, the rapid spread of tuberculosis coincided with periods of intense city growth. Tuberculosis thrived especially well in the poor and densely populated parts of the industrial town. In 1911 measures were taken to found an institution for tuberculosis patients in order to monitor the living conditions of people smitten with the disease and to perform check-ups for people who were suspected to have fallen ill due to tuberculosis.