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Most of the posters in this collection focus on infections that are transmitted from person to person and via vectors. A World Health Organization report in 1995 broke down the 17.3 million deaths globally that year from infectious diseases according to mode of transmission and found that 65% were caused by microbes transmitted from person to person (like tuberculosis and HIV/ AIDS). About 22% were foodborne, waterborne, or soil borne (like cholera and typhoid fever) and about 13% were transmitted by mosquitoes, like malaria. One of the most deadly diseases transmitted person-to-person is tuberculosis.

Unforgivable mistakes. (Tuberculosis bacilli.) China Anti-Tuberculosis Association, Shanghai, China, 1935.Antituberculosis societies, which began more than a century ago, were instrumental in educating the public. The National Association of the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis formed in the U.S. in 1904 was renamed the National Tuberculosis Association (NTA). It attempted to base health messages on the best science available at the time. The NTA borrowed devices and approaches developed by advertising and business agencies and developed others of its own. In 1906, exploiting the concept of a trademark used by companies, such as Quaker Oats, it adopted the double-barred Lorraine cross as its symbol. This was used on advertising, on posters, and on toilet articles sold to raise money for tuberculosis patients. The symbol was also used on Christmas seals, sold to raise money. The NTA used simple slogans, trying to make messages short (Don’t spit!) and memorable. It is noteworthy that the double-barred cross symbol appears on the poster created by the China Anti-Tuberculosis Association in mid-1930s, with its basic message of “don’t spit” presented in a much longer, perhaps culturally more acceptable, Chinese text in a poster that tells a story. It reveals the connectedness of the anti-tuberculosis campaigns in many countries.

Although the NTA used fear-based warnings and moralistic advertising in their early decades, they later moved to more positive messages and images. One circular included: “Don’t ever spit on any floor. Be hopeful and cheerful. Keep the window open.”

Many posters in the exhibit deal with activities that are under the control of the individual. The recommendation to cover coughs and sneezes and the danger that an individual poses to the general population in possibly starting an epidemic will resonate with the public today in an era of continued spread of respiratory infections and the threat of pandemic influenza or a more transmissible avian influenza virus. Although some posters showing ways to