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St. Louis has had its share of medical and natural disasters. Tornados have hit the city numerous times including 1896, 1957, and 1967. A huge fire burned most of downtown in 1849. As recently as 1993, the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers, as well as their tributaries, flooded vast areas of the metropolitan St. Louis area. Lives were lost in all of these events.

Patricia Davidson-Peters's website contains a description of early St. Louis medicine and its physicians.

Epidemics have plagued the city. In 1849, in addition to the fire, cholera devastated the city. Many residents moved to the countryside for the summer to flee from the epidemic. Before that, cholera was in the city in 1832, 1833, and 1835. Again, in 1866, cholera killed thousands. There have also been epidemics of yellow fever, influenza, and typhoid. More information on the epidemics that have plagued St. Louis can be found in the online article “Deadly Epidemics in St. Louis History.”

Because of the large influx of immigrants who lived together in crowded, relatively unsanitary conditions, St. Louis was, like many cities, a place where disease spread rapidly. Once a contagious disease caught hold in a community, it did not take long for thousands to become ill.

Some people believe that disease was brought to the city via the immigrants and the ships that carried them. Others blame the dirty water. It was probably a combination, since we now know that many epidemics are spread through those means, as well as by vermin and insects.

Religious institutions ran the earliest hospitals in the City of St. Louis . One of the first public facilities was City Hospital, founded in 1846. You can read more about the history of this hospital in the online article “A Short History of the City Hospital” by Michael R. Allen. This website contains a list of St. Louis hospitals and more information about them.

 

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