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The second leading cause of death in the United States about 1915 was tuberculosis. The disease is transmitted from one person to another through various direct means.

Water Fountains

One example is potential transmission from water fountains. The concern in the early 1900s led to changes in the design of water fountains so that someone using a fountain could not put their lips on the opening that supplied the stream of water. Such designs remain in place today.

Drinking Fountain Design, from United States Arsenals and Navy Yards standard for Toilet, Wash and Locker Rooms, published in Safety, Bulletin of the American Museum of Safety, Volume 6, Number 7, September 1918.

Spitting Prohibited

About the same time, there was a special promotion in New York seeking to stop people from spitting.

Cigar Cutters

Below is another example about transmission of tuberculosis and other diseases.

This article appeared in the July-August 1916 issue of Safety, a publication of the American Museum of Safety in New York City.

Cigar Cutters as Transmitters of Disease

Bacteriological studies recently made at the Research Laboratory of the New York City Department of Health showed that diphtheria bacilli could be recovered from a cigar cutter which had been used to cut the end off a cigar previously held in the mouth of a person ill with diphtheria. Other bacteria could be similarly recovered.

It is the practice of many persons before using a cigar cutter to moisten the tip of the cigar with the lips before cutting it off. It is evident that there is a possibility of disease being transmitted in that way through the use of common cigar cutters in tobacco shops. There are a number of different types of cigar cutters in use. In some, only the knife blade comes in contact with the cigar. In others, the end of the cigar presses into a conical socket and the knife cuts off the projecting end. If cigars are moistened in the mouth, the type of cutter in which the cutting edge only comes in contact with the cigar, would not be apt to carry much infection; but the cutter with a conical socket would be very likely to transfer the saliva of a person wetting the cigar to the cigar of the next person using the cutter.

The New York City Department of Health has suggested that the moistening of cigars before cutting be dispensed with as unnecessary, and that only cutters of the first type mentioned be used. A conference with proprietors of retail cigar stores has been proposed, when the desirability of having sanitary cigar cutters will be presented to them.

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