Monday, October 28, 2013

Smallpox Was A Terrible Scourge, Part 2

(( Continued from last week's post................ can you see where these blisters would form sores that would heal with terrible scarring?? I share this information with you for smallpox was a terrible scourge to our ancestors.))

"At the March term of the Frederick County Court, 1776, the Court granted a license "for inoculating for small pox at the dwelling of Robert Throckmorton and of Isaac Zane's several plantations, they using caution to prevent the said infection from being communicated from the said places." Later James Wood asked permission to inoculate his family at his plantation and Alexander White did likewise. In all these cases permission was granted but under specified conditions. Due to the dispersal of the population, the spread of the disease was slow but inexorable. On May 6, 1778, small pox had broken out in the family of Isaac Hite ** and "in most parts of the county." The Court continued to grant permission for inoculating the members of the various families with the customary recommendation for using every precaution against spreading the disease."

"Protective inoculation had been known to the ancient Chinese. It had long been observed that when one once had the disease he was immune to it thereafter. The ancients reasoned that if the disease be given under controlled conditions the chance for survival would be greatly increased. Inoculation was introduced into western Europe from Turkey through a report issued in 1716 by the Royal Society. In five years' time, 1721, this type of prevention was being practiced in New England at the time of the great Boston epidemic. It was a precarious form of treatment."

"A sharp object was pressed to the forehead at the base of the hair, or on one of the cheeks, or chin, or preferably, on an arm of leg. An incision was made. The pus from an infected sore was then dropped upon the wound which was then carefully bound by a dressing. The patient was kept in bed for several days and placed on a diet of meat and bread. Observations continued for forty days. Although the disease appeared in seven days, its virulence was diminished to a mortality rate of one in 68 as compared with one in ten for those not treated. The trouble with inoculation was that it practically insured contracting the disease with no guaranty that the prospective cure would not prove fatal. The worst aspect of the cure was that each person so inoculated automatically became a carrier of the plague." 

From The Story of Smithfield (Middleway), Jefferson Co, Virginia, 1729-1905,  by Robert Lee Bates, 1958.

** Isaac Hite was my ancestor!

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