In 1918, two Canadian brothers serving in World War I sent letters back and forth with friends and family. Some of those letters have been preserved, telling the story of how one of them died from Spanish Influenza.
Recently, measles has made a comeback in countries around the world where it was eliminated. Cases imported by un-vaccinated people have triggered local outbreaks in places around the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and Africa. Today, the World Health Organization and Public Health England have announced that measles is no longer considered eliminated in the United Kingdom. The United States and other developed nations where measles was once considered eliminated might be next.
In recent years, we have posted a blog about survivals of early smallpox scabs in archival collections today, and in a follow-up blog, “A Scab Story Bites Back,” we described the discovery of several 19th century smallpox vaccination kits in our museum collection. These kits showed visible residue on glass slides from lymph taken from pustules on infected human bodies and desiccated scab material. Since the last report, we have begun to correspond with other European and American collections with early vaccination tools that could be assayed for residue. Our own kits were examined first by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and then via the World Health Organization to Canada’s McMaster University. At this writing, the analysis of the kits continues: exciting results will be reported in “Revenge of the Scab Story,” forthcoming.