11.5.10

Journey to Ellis Island - Day Four

The storm has calmed a bit, but seasickness has left many in a bad mood. Tempers were not helped we were all told to go back to our appointed rooms. The ship’s surgeon and his assistant came in and told us he was there to make sure we had all had our vaccinations. We were told to queue up for muster and come forward as our names were called. We were to roll up our sleeves. Anyone who could not show a vaccination scar was to be inoculated.

There was a howl of protest. The surgeon firmly explained anyone who was not vaccinated would be held in Quarantine when we reached New York. No exceptions.

The surgeon never mentioned what we were being inoculated for, but we all knew--smallpox. Nasty disease. Highly contagious. It causes diarrhea, vomiting, high fever, severe headache, excessive bleeding, etc. Worse of all are the nasty pustules that cover the patient’s body. These break and crust over, leaving a horrible scar. The face and limbs are the worse. There is a 30% or higher fatality rate. Those that survive have a chance as high as 85% of being scarred. Blindness is less common, but always a danger.

For centuries the Chinese and other countries have inoculated people with small pox, sometimes causing more problems than they were preventing. Then in 1796, Edward Jenner, an English scientist, developed a vaccine using the far milder cowpox virus. Jenner observed that those who came down with cowpox later seemed to be immune to smallpox.

British Parliament made smallpox inoculation mandatory in 1853. Other countries followed and by the beginning of the 20th century, smallpox will be virtually nonexistent. By 1979 smallpox virus will become the first disease to ever be eradicated.

The surgeon began the vaccinations. Rather than using a syringe and putting the virus in the bloodstream, he pricked the skin with a two pronged needle that is dipped in the vaccine solution. The spot will itch and a blister will form, then scab over leaving a scar. One small scar on your arm beats dozens on your face.

When it came my turn, I rolled up my sleeve and showed the surgeon my scar. I’ve been vaccinated for all the known and even extinct diseases, like all Licensed Time Travelers. We don’t want another scare like the one in 2416, when a time traveler brought back smallpox! Thankfully it was contained in time.

I was handed a card like the one on the left. You will notice there is no mention of smallpox. Everyone just knows what the vaccination is for. The back of the card reads: “This card must be kept by the Passenger to avoid detention by Quarantine in New York or while traveling by Rail or Steamers in the United States.”

The surgeon finished with the lot of us, and then moved on the next steerage room. I heard loud complaints come from it, too. Still no one was brave enough to do more than grumble. No one wants to be put in quarantine. The immigrants will do anything to get into America.

1 comment:

Jeanette Bennett said...

Small pox was nearly extinct in the developed countries, but still killing millions in the third world countries where 300 to 500 million died in the twentieth century. In 1967 the World Health Organization declared war on the disease and went after it with military efficiency. In ten years small pox was extinct, one of mankind's deadliest diseases eradicated. We won! You can watch the battle here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIL6SGbgKJ4