The frightened city


ON 13 January, the first emergency vaccination centre was opened at the Edmund Street clinic in Bradford and people began to queue outside. Later a second vaccination centre was opened at the City Hall. Over the weekend, 30,000 people were vaccinated. One thousand four hundred suspected contacts were traced, vaccinated and kept under surveillance, putting a severe strain on the local resources.

One national newspaper called Bradford ‘the frightened city’, but Dr Douglas, the MoH advised the population: ‘Go about your normal business quietly and confidently, and avoid spreading rumours’. By 16 January, 100,000 had been vaccinated; there were fears that the clinics (which stayed open until 10 at night) would run out of vaccine, but fresh supplies continued to arrive. There appears to have been no panic in Bradford, but there were reports that 12 miles away in Leeds, where there had been no cases, women tried to force their way into a clinic to have their children vaccinated, even though they had been told there was no vaccine left.

It was an alarming fact that no less than five hospitals were implicated in the Bradford outbreak: the Children’s Hospital, where it originated; St Luke’s, where the male abattoir worker died; the Leeds Road Hospital, where the cook from the Children’s Hospital died; the Royal Infirmary, where the autopsy on the nine-year-old girl was performed; and the Wharfedale Children’s Hospital, to which one of the patients from the Bradford children’s hospital had been transferred. On 12 January it had been decided that the Leeds Road and Bradford Children’s hospitals should remain closed with no admissions, no discharges and no visiting. Admissions and discharges were banned at St Luke’s and the block in which the male patient had been nursed (along with the mortuary) was isolated. Only medical and surgical emergencies were admitted to the rest of St Luke’s and the Royal Infirmary.

During the Bradford outbreak, cinemas and theatres remained open, but Dr Douglas, the Medical Officer of Health, recommended that sporting fixtures should be cancelled, prompting protests from football clubs that they were being unfairly singled out. On 31 January, he announced that the risk of a widespread epidemic had passed. On 12 February the outbreak in west Yorkshire was officially declared over. But by then, Wales was in the firing line.

>> Cardiff and the Calcutta Cafe

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