ENGLAND had a lucky escape when a Pakistani, recently arrived from Karachi, fell ill on 20 December in West Bromwich. Smallpox was diagnosed on 28 December and he was transferred to the smallpox hospital at Witton. There were signs that he had been successfully vaccinated in the past and he recovered, to be discharged from hospital on 20 January. A Medical Officer of Health who had examined him, developed symptoms but recovered and the official report records no further cases arising from this importation, despite the fact that he had stayed with fellow countrymen in the Birmingham area and attended a special cinema show on Boxing Day.

Remarkably, in view of what would happen later in Wales, the pattern repeated itself in the case of another Pakistani who arrived from Karachi and was diagnosed with smallpox. He reached London on 4 January and also travelled to Birmingham. He fell ill a few days later and on 15 January a diagnosis of suspected smallpox was made. Scars suggested successful vaccination; he recovered and – it appeared – he infected no-one, despite travelling by taxi and visiting a Labour Exchange. Birmingham, like London, escaped.

Bradford was not so lucky – and long before anyone realised it, the virus was out of the bag.

>> Deaths in Bradford

2 thoughts on “Birmingham

  1. Bernie Dando contacted the site:

    I was just over three years old when the outbreak happened. I remember being in the queue which i think was at the doctor surgery in School Road, Yardley Wood (Birmingham). I was with my mom and uncle my uncle was quite ill when he had the jab . My mom did say that when we went the doctor doing the vaccinations said that he had only three doses left. We were near the front of the queue but there were a couple queuing with us and women was a conductress on the buses. Mom said the woman could have her place so long as I got the jab . Until I saw the site I didn’t realise how bad the outbreak had been.

  2. Talking about the Ebola virus today with my partner brought this back. I was 7 in 1962, and at primary school in Birmingham. I remember the scare, and the story that ‘someone had brought it in to the country’ and some people having voluntary vaccinations. Yes: these did make people ill. One child at school was taken ill as a result, but, more dramatically, my Mum took me to see a dramatization of Beauty and the Beast at the Old Rep in Station Street. After the first scene the performance suddenly stopped and the curtain came down. A, man, presumably the director or stage manager, stepped out in front of the curtain to explain that the Prince/Beast had just had his smallpox vaccination that day and he was now feeling too poorly to continue with the show. Maybe there was really an understudy, as you might expect, but as I recall it, the director said the actor’s lines would now be read from the page by another actor – until a member of the audience said he knew the part and (at least to my 7 year old eyes) seamlessly took over – have never forgotten that night.

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