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A sanatorium (also sanitorium, sanitarium) is a medical facility for long-term illness, typically tuberculosis. A distinction is sometimes made between "sanitarium" (a kind of health resort, as in the Battle Creek Sanitarium) and "sanatorium" (a hospital).
The rationale for sanatoria was that before antibiotic treatments existed, a regimen of rest and good nutrition offered the best chance that the sufferer's immune system would "wall off" pockets of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) infection. In 1863, Hermann Brehmer opened the Brehmerschen Heilanstalt für Lungenkranke in Görbersdorf (Sokołowsko), Silesia, for the treatment of tuberculosis, where patients were exposed to plentiful amounts of high altitude fresh air and good nutrition. Tuberculosis sanatoria became common throughout Europe from the late 19th century onwards.
The Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium, established in Saranac Lake, New York, in 1882, was the first such establishment in North America. According to the Saskatchewan Lung Association, when the National Anti-Tuberculosis Association (Canada) was founded in 1904, it was felt that a distinction should be made between the health resorts with which people were familiar and the new tuberculosis treatment hospitals: "So they decided to use a new word which instead of being derived from the Latin noun sanitas, meaning health, would emphasize the need for scientific healing or treatment. Accordingly, they took the Latin verb root sano, meaning to heal, and adopted the new word sanatorium.
Switzerland had many sanatoria, as it was believed that clean mountain air was the best treatment for lung diseases. In Finland a series of tuberculosis sanatoriums were built throughout the country in isolated forest areas.
In the early 20th century, tuberculosis sanatoria became common in the United States.
After 1943, when Albert Schatz, a graduate student at Rutgers University, discovered streptomycin, the first true cure for tuberculosis, sanatoriums began to close. As in the case of the Paimio Sanatorium, many were transformed into general hospitals. Around the 1950s, tuberculosis was no longer a major public health threat and so most of the sanatoriums had reached the end of their lives. Most sanatoriums were demolished years ago.
Some, however, have assumed updated medical roles. The Tambaram Sanatorium in south India is now a hospital for AIDS patients. The state hospital in Sanatorium, Mississippi is now a regional mental retardation center.
In the former Soviet Union, the term has a slightly different meaning. There a sanatorium is mostly a combination of a resort/recreational facility and a medical facility intended to provide short-term complex rest and medical services; thus, it is similar to spa resorts.
In Japan, by the suggestion of the ministry of welfare in 2001, the name of a leprosarium was changed to a sanatorium. For instance, National Leprosarium Tama Zenshoen was changed to National Sanatorium Tama Zenshoen.
- "The Sanatorium Age:'"Sanatorium' vs. 'Sanitarium', An History of the Fight Against Tuberculosis in Canada]
- Sanitarium, sanatorium, sanitorium — The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, 1993
- McCarthy OR (August 2001). The key to the sanatoria. J R Soc Med 94 (8): 413–7.
- Govt. Hospital of Thoracic Medicine
- The Sanatorium Age: "Sanatorium" vs. "Sanitarium", The Saskatchewan Lung Association.
- Waverly Hills Sanatorium still source of local curiosity, Douglas Kleier, Jr., Louisville Cardinal Online, Oct. 21, 2003.
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