Death by consumption was one of the most common killers of young adults in 19th century America; consumption is what is now known as tuberculosis. Consumption was characterized by fever, chills, flushing of the cheeks and a veracious cough.
In the 19th century, consumption was believed to be the result of simply bad genes. There were various resources that listed the family members who had died or been affected by the disease. People were thought to have the disease simply as a result of deposition that was common in their family. Those who fell ill were not treated as contagious, causing the disease to spread to family members and others.
In the late 1800s, after consumption had killed thousands of Americans, including President Andrew Jackson, scientists began working toward a cure for the disease. They first learned that the disease was, in fact, contagious. Recognizing this fact allowed medical professionals and scientists to be able to perform the necessary testing and experiments on the disease without contracting it themselves. After this fact was discovered, scientists could begin taking the proper measures to protect themselves from the disease. The tests that were performed eventually led to the production of a vaccination that can protect against this disease.