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The great scourge : the Tasmanian infantile paralysis epidemic of 1937-38


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Killalea, A 1993 , 'The great scourge : the Tasmanian infantile paralysis epidemic of 1937-38', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The drama of Tasmanian epidemics has inspired a number of historical studies. Roe, with smallpox, was interested in the politics of epidemic management, Carnes, in Spanish Influenza's effect on Commonwealth-State relations, Todd, in one city's pattern of epidemics, and the geographer, Kellaway, in the part the sewerage system played in typhoid. This writer was stimulated by the possibility of interviewing people who had actually been affected by an epidemic to see what personal accounts could contribute to historical understanding. Though the volume of material willingly provided by ex-patients, medical and nursing staff, volunteers and other witnesses could well have resulted in a purely oral-history project, newspaper research uncovered other matters of importance, such as an angry crowd of Launcestonians who would "tar and feather" any politician whose laxity allowed infantile paralysis into the State. Such material (and that from other printed sources) could hardly be overlooked.
Although a great deal of information about the 1937-38 epidemic exists in Tasmania - especially in the memories of the people - the writer is astounded at the lack of formal interest so far taken in what was, in fact, the world's biggest epidemic of its kind. Not only has historical interest been lacking, but, even more surprisingly, medical. While Victoria's infantile paralysis epidemic (which slightly pre-dated, but also ran concurrently with Tasmania's) attracted a great deal of local epidemiological interest, the Tasmanian situation, far worse than Victoria's, excited no mainland curiosity and resulted in the production of only one Tasmanian paper, never published. This is especially amazing when one considers that the 'thirties were a time of intense interest in Child Health, and were also the years of the State Medical Service's proud extension into country districts, where the majority of cases occurred. Another reason one would expect the arousal of medical curiosity was the peculiar infectivity of the virus in Tasmania, including multiple incidence of clinical effects in families - a pattern here that contradicted the trend elsewhere.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Killalea, A
Keywords: Poliomyelitis, Poliomyelitis
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1993 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references. Thesis (MHum)--University of Tasmania, 1993

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