IDPH 125th


An outbreak of amebic dysentery occurred during the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, resulting in 1,704 cases of illness and 98 deaths. Faulty plumbing at a Chicago hotel polluted the hotel’s water supply causing the illnesses.

Because the cases of dysentery were so widely dispersed throughout the United States – 1,409 occurred outside Illinois in about 400 cities – they were not immediately recognized as an outbreak. Four months after the fair opened, newspaper headlines brought the outbreak to the public’s attention. Once public health officials recognized that Chicago was the most likely site of the outbreak, they were able to determine that 1,050 of the 1,409 out-of-state victims had been guests of the city’s Congress Hotel.

Health authorities focused their attention on the hotel, taking employee health histories and conducting medical tests. Their investigation finally determined that faulty plumbing had allowed the hotel’s drinking water supply to be polluted.

... Years Ago in Public Health

A Timeline of the Illinois Department of Public Health

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