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Colorado State Publications Blog

1918 Influenza

Cañon City High School students don masks during the 1918-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy History Colorado.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the great Spanish influenza pandemic that claimed the lives of an estimated 50 million people worldwide — more people than died in combat in both World Wars combined. I have several relatives who died of the 1918 flu, and you probably do, too.

Despite the name, the influenza didn’t start in Spain, but rather began its deadly spread very near Colorado, on the farms of Kansas near the Kansas-Oklahoma-Colorado border. Scientists and historians believe that the influenza originated from swine in the hog farms of Kansas. The hogs may have picked up the flu from migrating birds, according to researchers at the Smithsonian. The bird flu wasn’t spreadable to humans, but when it infected the hogs it changed enough genetically that it was able to spread to people.

Given the deadly flu’s origins so close to the Colorado border, our state was hit hard. The first Colorado cases were reported in September. Then, several thousand Coloradans died of the flu in just the three months between October and December of 1918, according to an essay by Stephen Leonard in the 1989 edition of Essays and Monographs in Colorado History, which you can check out from our library. In total, over 49,000 Coloradans, out of a total state population of 906,000, became infected with the flu.

Some of Colorado’s first cases of the 1918 flu were at the University of Colorado in Boulder, which set up quarantines in fraternity houses. You can read about the University of Colorado Medical School’s response to the pandemic in The University of Colorado School of Medicine: A Centennial History, available for checkout from our library. Other Colorado cases spread through the army camps and among civilians who had traveled outside the state to locations where the flu was widespread. Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and other cities ordered schools, churches, theaters, and other public gathering places to close temporarily, and many outdoor public gatherings were banned. Even some trains required all passengers to wear masks. One Coloradan who nearly died of the flu was Katherine Anne Porter, a Rocky Mountain News columnist. She would go on to write Pale Horse, Pale Rider, arguably the most famous novel written about the Spanish flu.

The flu spread so quickly and so widely around the world in large part because of the Great War. American soldiers brought it to Europe, where, it is believed, the strain may have mutated. Then, when the war ended, the soldiers brought the mutated strain back to America. Estimates for the numbers of persons infected and killed by the Spanish influenza are difficult to determine because for many sufferers, if the flu itself didn’t kill them, it turned into pneumonia. Therefore many death certificates list pneumonia as cause of death when in actuality the pneumonia was brought on by the flu. Estimates suggest, however, that the pandemic caused the death of at least 8,000 Coloradans, over 675,000 people across America, and 20 to 50 million worldwide. The 1918 flu remains one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in recorded history.

  

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: In Search of the "Climate Cure"

Today we often think of early settlers coming to Colorado seeking wealth, but in fact, just as many — if not more — were seeking health.  Respiratory diseases, especially tuberculosis, were widespread in America and Europe in the nineteenth century. At that time, medical professionals did not understand that tuberculosis was communicable. Instead, they believed that Colorado’s dry, fresh mountain air could cure the disease, and as a result, thousands emigrated to the state in search of the “climate cure.” According to an article in the Colorado Encyclopedia, “Although scientists discovered Mycobacterium tuberculosis – tuberculosis’s disease-causing agent – in the 1880s, doctors struggled to explain why and how it spread.” It wasn’t until the 1940s that antibiotics were developed for the treatment of the disease, and Colorado’s own Dr. Florence Sabin was among the country’s most influential tuberculosis researchers. (For data on tuberculosis in the 1940s and ’50s, see my previous Time Machine Tuesday post).
Colorado health reports from the 1870s, now available online from our library, offer a fascinating look at the extent of the medical professions’ knowledge about tuberculosis before it was understood or extensively researched.  The report of the State Board of Health from 1876 — the year Colorado became a state — is particularly interesting because it contains a lengthy essay discussing forty-four cases of tuberculosis, or “pulmonary consumption” as it was then called. The case studies provide a wealth of historical information on the disease, its characteristics, and the people it affected. Also included in the 1876 report were essays on climate’s influence on asthma, another respiratory disease; the healing benefits of Colorado’s mineral hot springs; and an article entitled “Altitude: Its Influence on Health,” all highlighting Colorado’s perceived role as a health destination for sufferers of respiratory diseases and other ailments. These essays offer an insightful look at the state of medical knowledge and practice in the late nineteenth century.

Before antibiotics, doctors thought that fresh air could cure tuberculosis, so sanatoriums like the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society (JCRS) on West Colfax were established where patients could spend much of their time convalescing outdoors. Photo courtesy Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Emergency Medical Services in Colorado

In Colorado the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) oversees emergency medical services (EMS), including training and certification, trauma services, funding, air and ground ambulance, etc., and provides data on these services.  In our library you can find many resources on EMS in Colorado from the CDPHE and cooperating agencies.  Some highlights include:

For more resources, search our library’s online catalog.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Loan Repayment Program for Healthcare Professionals

The State of Colorado has found a clever way to encourage health care practitioners to move to rural and underserved areas where their services are badly needed.  It is called the Loan Repayment Program.  By agreeing to practice in underserved areas for three years, new health care professionals can receive repayment funds for their student loans.  This month, 33 new health care providers received nearly $2 million in loan repayment in exchange for their agreement to practice in places like Burlington, Rifle, Holly, and Monte Vista.  Other practitioners will stay in the metro area but will practice at community clinics, homeless services, and other agencies providing healthcare to underserved and impoverished populations.  To view the list of the 33 providers and where they’re heading, see the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE)’s February 8 press release.  To learn more about the program,visit the CDPHE’s “Health Professional Loan Repayment” website.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

National Breastfeeding Month

August has been designated National Breastfeeding Month.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) encourages breastfeeding as the natural, healthy way to feed a baby, and they have issued a number of publications on this topic.  Their major report on breastfeeding is Getting it Right After Delivery:  Five Hospital Practices that Support BreastfeedingOther CDPHE reports include their Breastfeeding Promotion Resource Kit and Lay the Foundation for a Lifetime of Good Health — Promoting, Protecting, Supporting Breastfeeding.  

Colorado statute specifies that accommodations must be made for nursing mothers in the workplace; see House Bill 08-1286 and the Colorado Revised Statutes for applicable state laws.

For further resources, see CDPHE’s Breastfeeding webpage.  See also their webpage with information on the Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which provides qualifying low-income families with nutritious foods, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support.   

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Find and Compare Health Facilities

Health facilities such as assisted living centers, clinics, dialysis centers, hospices, nursing homes, and other facilities, in addition to hospitals, are required to be licensed by the State of Colorado.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides an online directory of all licensed health facilities in the state of Colorado.  Here you can find facilities by location (city or county) as well as find information on inspections and “occurrences” (incidents or violations).  This is a helpful website to check before you send a family member to live in a residential facility, or seek any kind of medical care for yourself or your family.   

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Assisted Living

Did you know that September 13-19 is National Assisted Living Week?  The State of Colorado has a number of resources that can help you find information on assisted living facilities in Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has a database of facilities in Colorado, with information on the facilities’ licensure.  Also, be sure to check out CDPHE’s Assisted Living Residence Consumer Resources page for more information.

The Colorado Department of Human Services can also offer assistance on the topic through their Office of Aging and Adult Services.

For additional resources, see our library’s Quick Guide for Seniors and Caregivers, offering links to resources as well as search tips for finding inf
ormation in our library.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's Growing Health Industry

The Colorado Department of Higher Education and its subsidiary, College in Colorado, have teamed up with three Colorado community colleges to to offer a new website for Coloradans interested in studying for health careers.  According to the website, planyourhealthcareer.org, the health industry is adding 4,000-8,000 new jobs each year, and pay is above the national average.  Whether you are a young college student or an adult going to school, the site has information on colleges and programs, advice on career pathways, financial aid information, and opportunities to connect with employers in the health industry. 

For more information on the growth of the health industry in Colorado, check out the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Health Care brochure, and search our library’s web catalog for additional resources.  Here you can also find information from Colorado’s state community colleges, including catalogs of course offerings.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado State Hospital

The Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP), formerly known as the Colorado State Hospital, is celebrating its 135th anniversary this year.  (See the news story from the Colorado Department of Human Services.)  The institution was founded as the Colorado State Insane Asylum on October 23, 1879.  It grew from 12 patients that year to over 6,000 by the 1960s, according to the CMHIP’s history page.  Today the population is around 500. 

You can find further historical information on the State Hospital at our library.  Helpful resources include:

  • Colorado State Hospital (1981)
  • Colorado State Hospital Decentralization Plan (1962)
  • Biennial Report (1919-1951) and Annual Report (1952-1962)
  • The Colorado State Hospital and Related Services for the Mentally Ill in Colorado:  A Survey Report (1958)

Photo courtesy Colorado Department of Human Services

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Hospice Care

Did you know that November is National Hospice Palliative Care Month?  If you are searching for hospice care for a loved one, be sure to select the best care possible by visiting the Colorado Dept. of Public Health & Environment’s Consumer Resources – Hospices webpage.  Here you will find the information you need on inspections, incident occurrences, and how to file a complaint, along with a directory of hospice care facilities in Colorado. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

History of Colorado Medicine

Colorado has a long history of medical care and innovations, with many of the state’s early settlers choosing Colorado for it’s “climate cure” of consumption (tuberculosis) and other respiratory diseases rampant in the eastern U.S. Today, Colorado is recognized as having several of the nation’s leading research hospitals, including the University of Colorado Medical Center and National Jewish Hospital. This is also a time for extensive growth of hospitals as well. In Denver, both St. Joseph’s Hospital and National Jewish Hospital are expanding, St. Anthony’s Central Hospital is moving to a new site near the Denver Federal Center, and in the last several years Children’s Hospital and Univeristy of Colorado Hospital have moved into the innovative new Anschutz Medical Campus. So if you’re interested in finding out about these institutions beginnings, as well as early health care practices in our state, we have a number of publications here in our library dealing with the history of medicine in Colorado, including:

  • Attitudes on Altitude: Pioneers of Medical Research in Colorado’s High Mountains
  • Dr. Charles David Spivak: A Jewish Immigrant and the American Tuberculosis Movement
  • For a Child’s Sake: History of the Children’s Hospital, Denver, Colorado, 1919-1990
  • The University of Colorado School of Medicine: A Millennial History
  • A Medical Gentleman: James J. Waring, M.D.
  • The University of Colorado School of Medicine: A Centennial History, 1883-1983
  • Health in Colorado: The First 100 Years

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Check Up On Your Doctor

Your health depends on having a quality physician you can trust. So how do you find out if your physician has had any suspensions, restrictions, or convictions? Just visit the Colorado Dept. of Regulatory Agencies’ Physician Profile database. There, you can type in the name of your doctor and receive a full report. Soon, you will also be able to check this information on other healthcare professionals, including nurses and therapists, now required by the passage of SB10-124, “The Michael Skolnik Medical Transparency Act of 2010.” This database is expected to be available after July 1, 2011.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Hospital Prices

If you know you’re going to need to check in to the hospital, you may want to check hospital prices beforehand to find the best care and the best price. The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies can help you with this. They have set up a new website, the Colorado Hospital Price Report, which provides information on prices, insurance, hospital bill FAQs, resource links, and a hospital report card. The information in this helpful website promotes increased transparency and greater access to information for Colorado consumers.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Health Care Resources

For anyone seeking Colorado health care, trying to find out where to get help can be a daunting task. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, one of several state agencies with a focus on health care, has put together a handy directory, Who Does What in Colorado’s Health Care, to put you in the right direction. Referrals are to local and federal government, and non-profit agencies as well as state agencies. In addition, more focused directories are available, such as:

· Medicaid Provider Lookup
· Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP) Provider Directory
· Prenatal Plus Provider Agencies in Colorado by County

Though not really a directory, the Health Care Resource Book 2007 is a guide to major Colorado health care programs. Try a search in our catalog to turn up additional directories.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Hospital Report Card

The Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Hospital Association have unveiled a new Internet database, the Colorado Hospital Report Card. Created by the Colorado legislature in HB 06-1278, the report card is a resource for comparing hospitals by safety measures, mortality rates, procedure volumes and other measures. Find out which hospital treats the most people for asthma, or view the mortality rates from pneumonia. This is a great new source for Colorado health statistics. The ‘report card’ can be found at: http://www.cohospitalquality.org/