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CAUSES OF DEATH

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BERTHA LEIER HUNTER SAUNDERS
born February 12, 1890 in the Greenfield section of Brooklyn, NY - died March 13, 1941, age 51 years.

Father: Lawrence Leier (1862-1899)
Mother: Amelia Nowasky (1865-1931)

Cause of death: Pulmonary Tuberculosis


Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly communicable and often deadly disease caused by the tubercle bacillus and characterized by toxic symptoms or allergic manifestations which primarily affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is spread through the air, when people who have the disease cough, sneeze or spit.

The typical symptoms of tuberculosis are a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats and weight loss.

In the past, tuberculosis has been called consumption, because it seemed to consume people from within, with a bloody cough, fever, pallor, and long relentless wasting.

Before the Industrial Revolution, tuberculosis may sometimes have been regarded as vampirism. When one member of a family died from it, the other members that were infected would lose their health slowly. People believed that this was caused by the original victim draining the life from the other family members.

Furthermore, people who had TB exhibited symptoms similar to what people considered to be vampire traits. People with TB often have symptoms such as red, swollen eyes (which also creates a sensitivity to bright light), pale skin, extremely low body heat, a weak heart and coughing blood, suggesting the idea that the only way for the afflicted to replenish this loss of blood was by sucking blood.

In the 1800s, the disease was responsible for more than 30% of all deaths in Europe.

Even today, tuberculosis treatment is difficult and requires isolation in a clinic and long courses of multiple antibiotics. Unfortunately for Bertha and several other family members, antibiotics weren't developed until the 1940's.

Bertha, or Birdie as she was known by the family, was living with her second husband, Hobart C. Saunders, in Westerly, Rhode Island when she died. Her daughter from her first marriage to Laurence Burton Hunter, Ruth Hunter, was living with them. Ruth was 21 years old when her mother died.

Birdie was the last Leier family member to succumb to the ravages of Tuberculosis. The disease also claimed the lives of Birdie's sisters, Minnie in 1919, Louisa in 1920, her brother Charles in 1926, and her two nieces, Bertha (another Birdie, in 1931) and Dorothy Kazalski (1933).









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