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Re: MtMan-List: 1837 Smallpox

> smallpox outbreak of
>1837 along the Missouri River.  As I
>understand virus' (and I'm not an expert) they are short lived outside
>their host's body.  If this is true then there must have been a smallpox
>outbreak among the "white" residents of St Louis or along the
>Mississippi/Ohio rivers.  Was the tramission really through a product
>like clothing and blankets or were the St Peters crew/passengers
>infected?  Could smallpox have survived for very long in goods like
>clothing or blankets?  And if so how long?  Is there a doctor in the

What an interesting question.  I am no MD, but I remember Wishart (and
others) mentioning blankets specifically.  While the virus doesn't survive
for long periods without a host organism, remember that blanket wool is
organic material and could possibly host smallpox in its fibers.  Remember
also that there were passengers (missionaries, scientists, traders,
soldiers, etc) and crews on board, as well as rats, and other critters,
each of which could have helped the viral organisms alive during the
voyage.  Remember, Non-Indian people carried the virus, but had long become
immune to it's effects.  Native Americans had not enough exposure to the
disease to build an immunity.

(BTW, this also helps explain the high death rates among new arrivals of
African slaves until the end of the slave trade.)

Steamboats were a perfect place for disease to thrive, being cramped places
with virtually no where to go during a trip.  Certainly the fastest way to
reach the upper Missouri, but not the healthiest.

Don't know if I'm totally right, but I gave it a shot.


Hears The Quiet

Henry B. Crawford        Curator of History
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