Sunday, December 18, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: December 18

December 18, 1912 – George Swain, 74 years old, living on a farm near Mendota, Minn., tramped through mud and slush of country roads to St. Paul today while suffering from smallpox in an advanced stage. The old man walked so he would not pass the disease to passengers on a train.

He walked into the office of the St. Paul city physician, creating a small panic, as it was obvious that he had smallpox. Swain was taken to the Dale Street infirmary after his walk of several hours.

St. Paul health department officials highly praised the man’s conduct in refusing to expose others to the disease. Furthermore, they expect him to recover, as his physical condition, despite his age, was very good.

Large-scale vaccination finally eliminated smallpox from the United States in 1949, but the disease spread freely in other parts of the world for three more decades.1

Smallpox infection is typically identified by the raised lesions that form on a patient’s face and body.1

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Old Man, Ill, Saves Others. Farmer With Smallpox Walks to City to Prevent Spread of Contagion.”; Dec. 19, 1912; p. 1.



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