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No Sax today - just SmAllpoX. As the media obsess on Ebola, I was reminded of this event from my childhood. The areas concerned are all within 20 miles of where I grew up.
In 1962, South Wales was the home of the last smallpox epidemic in the UK. Although he was carrying a smallpox vaccination certificate, Shuka Mia brought the deadly disease from Pakistan to the Welsh Valleys.
On 13 January 1962 a man called Shuka Mia arrived in Cardiff on a train from Birmingham. He’d flown into Britain the day before on a plane from Pakistan, where a smallpox epidemic claimed hundreds of lives that winter. Though he carried a vaccination certificate, he brought the deadly virus to Wales.
After arriving in Cardiff he lodged above a restaurant where he became fevered, and a doctor was called. He was diagnosed as having smallpox, and was immediately removed to Penrhys Isolation Hospital, on top of a mountain overlooking the Rhondda Valley. As news broke, panic ensued, and almost a million people were vaccinated in South Wales
No new cases were found, and it seemed that the crisis had been averted.
Then, out of the blue, a consultant at East Glamorgan Hospital became seriously ill (25 February). The mysterious case of Dr Robert Hodkinson marked the real beginning of the 1962 crisis. Bob Hodkinson knew that, somehow, he had contracted smallpox. Alone among the medical staff at East Glamorgan, Bob Hodkinson had not been revaccinatedAfter investigation, it was found that he had been infected during an autopsy of a woman who had died of a "mysterious disease". Unfortunately, she had been laid out in an open coffin for 6 days at her mother's house, and six more people became infected. The panic in the valley continued for a month, and eventually claimed six victims.
Again, the worst seemed to be over, but worse was to come.
On 6 April, eight patients at Glanrhyd Mental Hospital near Bridgend were diagnosed with Smallpox. One died that night. Many of its patients came from the Rhondda areaIn the following week, 12 patients at the hospital died. The vectors of the disease were never positively identified, but airborne carriage is suspected, and there is the mystery visitor from the Rhondda to patient zero. Ironically, patient zero, Shuka Mia, survived the disease.
A fuller description can be found at this website , Smallpox 1962, dedicated to this subject, from where the above block quotes are taken.
Here is a video about the outbreak, and the creation of the website by a local university's journalism department. Apologies for the time clock for the first 30 seconds.
And for those with less time, a little animation of Edward Jenner, father of immunology and vaccinations, who invented the smallpox vaccine.