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Encyclopedia > 1972 outbreak of smallpox in Yugoslavia

The 1972 outbreak of smallpox in Yugoslavia was the last major outbreak of smallpox in Europe. It was centred in Kosovo and Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro (both then part of SFR Yugoslavia). A Muslim pilgrim had contracted the smallpox virus in the Middle East. Upon returning to his home in Kosovo, he started the epidemic in which 175 people were infected, 35 of whom died. The epidemic was efficiently and ruthlessly contained by enforced quarantine and mass vaccination. The 1982 film Variola Vera is based on the event. Smallpox (also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera) is a highly contagious disease unique to humans. ... A satellite composite image of Europe Europe is the worlds second-smallest continent in terms of area, covering around 10,790,000 km² (4,170,000 sq mi) or 2. ... Kosovo (Serbian: Косово и Метохија / Kosovo i Metohija, Albanian: Kosovë / Kosova) is a province of Serbia. ... [[Image:|Location of Belgrade]] Mayor Nenad Bogdanović Area 359. ... The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was a Balkan state that existed from 1945 to 1992. ... The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) A virus is a microscopic parasite that infects cells in biological organisms. ... Quarantine, a medical term (from Italian: quaranta giorni, forty days) is the act of keeping people or animals separated for a period of time before, for instance, allowing them to enter another country. ... Vaccination is a term coined by Edward Jenner for the process of administering live, albeit weakened, microbes to patients, with the intent of conferring immunity against a targeted form of a related disease agent. ... 1982 (MCMLXXXII) is a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Contents


Background

By 1972, vaccination for smallpox had long been widely available and the disease was considered to be eradicated in Europe. The population of Yugoslavia had been regularly vaccinated against smallpox for 50 years, and the last case was reported in 1930. This was the major cause for the initial slow reaction by doctors, who did not promptly recognize the symptoms of the disease.


The outbreak

In early 1972, a 38-year-old Muslim clergyman from Damnjan near Djakovica, Kosovo, undertook the pilgrimage to Mecca. He also visited holy sites in Iraq, where there were known cases of smallpox. He returned home on February 15. The following morning he felt achy and tired, but attributed this to the long bus journey. He soon realised that he had some kind of infection, but, after feeling feverish for a couple of days and developing a rash, he recovered - probably because he had been vaccinated two months earlier. A Muslim (Arabic: مسلم) (sometimes also pronounced Moslem) is an adherent of Islam. ... Gjakova or Gjakove ( in Albanian Gjakova or Gjakovë) is a city located in Kosovo, at 42. ... The Hajj or Haj (Arabic: حَجّ Ḥaǧǧ) is the Pilgrimage to Mecca (or, Makkah) and is the fifth of the Five Pillars of Islam in Sunni Islam and one of the ten Branches of Religion in Shia Islam. ... February 15 is the 46th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ...


On March 3, Latif Musa, a thirty-year-old schoolteacher, who had just arrived in Djakovica to enroll at the local higher institute of education, fell ill. He had no known direct contacts with the clergyman, so he might have been infected by one of the clergyman's friends or relatives who visited him during his illness, or by passing the clergyman in the street. March 3 is the 62nd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (63rd in leap years). ... Gjakova or Gjakove ( in Albanian Gjakova or Gjakovë) is a city located in Kosovo, at 42. ...


When Musa visited the local medical center two days later, the doctors tried to treat his fever with penicillin (smallpox is a virus, so this was ineffective). His condition didn't improve, and after a couple of days his brother took him to the hospital in Čačak, 150 km to the north in Serbia. The doctors there could not help him, so he was transferred by ambulance to the central hospital in Belgrade. Penicillin is a β-lactam antibiotic used in the treatment of bacterial infections caused by susceptible, usually Gram-positive, organisms. ... Čačak (Чачак) is a city located near Serbia and Montenegro at 43. ...


On March 9, Musa was shown to medical students and staff as a case of an atypical reaction to penicillin, which was a feasible explanation for his condition. On the following day, Musa suffered massive internal bleeding and, despite efforts to save his life, died in the evening. March 9 is the 68th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (69th in Leap years). ...


The cause of death was listed as "reaction to penicillin". In fact he had contracted black pox, a highly contagious form of smallpox. Before his death, Musa directly infected 38 people (including nine doctors and nurses), 8 of whom would consequently die.


Reaction

By March 22, medical authorities realised that Musa had died of smallpox. The government's reaction was swift. Martial law was declared. Measures included blockades of villages and neighbourhoods, roadblocks, prohibition of public meetings, closure of borders and prohibition of all non-essential travel. Hotels were requisitioned for quarantines in which ten thousand people who may have been in contact with the virus were held under guard by the army. The authorities undertook a massive revaccination of the population, helped by the World Health Organization. Donald Henderson, the world's foremost authority on smallpox, was flown in to help the effort. March 22 is the 81st day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (82nd in Leap years). ... Martial law is the system of rules that takes effect (usually after a formal declaration) when a military authority takes control of the normal administration of justice. ... WHO emblem The World Health Organization (WHO) is an agency of the United Nations, acting as a coordinating authority on international public health, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. ... Donald D.A. Ainslie Henderson, MD, is an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University who was vital in the international effort during the 1960s to eradicate smallpox. ...


Within two weeks, almost the entire population had been revaccinated. By mid-May the spread of the disease was stopped and the country returned to normal life. During the epidemic, 175 people contracted smallpox and 35 of them died.


Legacy

The Yugoslav government received international praise for the successful containment of the epidemic, which was also one of the finest hours for Donald Henderson and the WHO, as well as one of crucial steps in the eradication of smallpox.


Two months of martial law, the fear and the helplessness during of the epidemic left a lasting mark on an entire generation. Another, more tangible mark, was left in the shape of the small scars on millions of arms, left by the vaccination.


In 1982, Serbian director Goran Marković made the film Variola Vera about a hospital under quarantine during the epidemic. In 2002 BBC screened a television drama called Smallpox 2002, which was partly inspired by the events. 1982 (MCMLXXXII) is a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 2002 (MMII) is a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Corporate logo of the British Broadcasting Corporation The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the national public service broadcaster of the United Kingdom (see British television). ...


Timeline

  • February 15, 1972 - A clergyman returns from pilgrimage to Mecca infected with the smallpox virus.
  • February 16 - The clergyman feels unwell.
  • February 21 - Ljatif Muzza, a thirty-year old school teacher, arrives in Djakovica to continue his studies.
  • March 3 - Muzza falls ill with a highly contagious form of smallpox.
  • Between March 3 and March 9 Muzza is misdiagnosed and moved to hospitals in Čačak and then Belgrade. During this time, he directly infects 38 people.
  • March 9 - Muzza is shown to medical students in the Belgrade hospital as a case of reaction to penicillin.
  • March 10 - Muzza develops massive internal bleeding and dies.
  • March 22 - Doctors correctly diagnose the cause of Muzza's death and government begins measures to contain the epidemic.
  • Early April - Mass revaccination begins. Donald Henderson arrives.
  • Late May - The epidemic is over. 175 people were infected, 35 died.

February 15 is the 46th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1972 (MCMLXXII) was a leap year that started on a Saturday. ... February 16 is the 47th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... February 21 is the 52nd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... March 3 is the 62nd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (63rd in leap years). ... March 3 is the 62nd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (63rd in leap years). ... March 9 is the 68th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (69th in Leap years). ... March 9 is the 68th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (69th in Leap years). ... March 10 is the 69th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (70th in Leap years). ... March 22 is the 81st day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (82nd in Leap years). ...

References

  • Flight, Colette (2002). Smallpox: Eradicating the Scourge hosted by BBC History. Verified availability 2005-03-12.
  • Zwerdling, Daniel (Oct 23, 2001). Bioterrorism: Civil Liberties Under Quarantine. American Radio Works. Verified availability 2005-03-12.

External links

  • Variola vera. Internet Movie Database entry for a documentary on the 1972 smallpox outbreak in Yugoslavia. Verified availability 2005-03-12.
  • Smallpox 2002: Silent Weapon hosted by Drama. Drama-documentary about a hypothetical bioterrorism attack involving smallpox. Verified availability 2005-03-12.

 
 

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