History of Tuberculosis in Shelby County

The West Tennessee Tuberculosis Hospital along with the Tennessee State Tuberculosis Hospital were founded in 1948. Tuberculosis was a leading killer in the early 1900’s in Shelby County and caused over twelve percent of deaths in 1902. In 1902, tuberculosis was made a reportable disease by law. Deaths continued to increase over the years within Memphis and surrounding areas. The program captured individuals suffering from active disease throughout the Memphis area. Beforehand, the first hospital was established for the care of TB diagnosed individuals went into business in 1909. The center was mandated and funded by a private institution, and later, it was turned into a sanatorium. Launched in 1912, the sanatorium was bought by the city and used for the treatment of tuberculosis and was called Oakville Memorial. It was set in place to control the TB epidemic of Shelby County. There were a whooping total of one hundred forty-eight cases of Tuberculosis reported to the sanatorium, and sixty-four percent of these individuals died during their stay there. But with organization of two well-functioning hospitals, the case rates of persons with active TB began to decrease over time. Tuberculosis rates would fluctuate in the nineteenth century until after the discovery of the antibiotic streptomycin and other effective anti-tuberculosis drugs.