Think yourselves lucky

SMALLPOX OUTBREAK 1978

Smallpox is an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning spotted, or varus, meaning "pimple". The term "smallpox" was first used in Europe in the 15th century to distinguish variola from the "great pox" (syphilis) Source: Wikipedia.



Most folks who know me don’t know that I was once the centre of a national health alert in the late 1970’s.
I worked for the Anatomy Department of The University of Birmingham between 1978 and 1980.
Whilst I worked there as an illustrator sharing a studio with Janet Parker the photographer, something extraordinary happened; Smallpox virus escaped from the laboratory below us.
In August 1978 Janet was ill for some weeks with Scarlet Fever or Measles. I went back to Ilkeston, Derbyshire to celebrate my birthday (23rd August) around the town pubs. Naturally, I met dozens of folks during my tour.
I returned to my parent’s home and watched the 6.00pm TV news – Janet’s face came up on screen and strict instructions came for those with any recent close contact with her as she had been infected with smallpox – this was ‘red alert’.
Dad drove Ina and me to the centre of Birmingham where I was injected with ‘gamma globulin’ to prevent potential infection.
Ein and me were quarentined to our flat and forbidden to leave until the crisis had passed.


We had no phone line and relied upon the TV news and papers for information. The district nurse was given the task of providing groceries to our doorstep- we were not allowed to pass anything to to the outside world such as milk bottles. The nurse was surprised at the amount of alcohol I consumed.
I was barrier-nursed for several days and we almost faced total quarentine due to the appearance of slight acne on my shoulders.
TV ads ran the new film ‘Close Encounters of a 3rd Kind’ at this time.
After about three weeks we were allowed out and I went to Dudley to see the film.
We married on 17th March (St Patrick’s Day) the following year.
Count your blessings