History Moment

Great Race of Mercy

It seems that every time I step on a rusty nail (or a similar occurrence) my health care provider wants to be certain that I have a current Tdap vaccination. What is Tdap? It is
the vaccine that covers tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

Diphtheria is a virus that is transmitted from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets, by coughing or sneezing. When the bacteria that causes diphtheria gets into and attaches itself to the lining of the respiratory system, which includes parts of the body that help you breathe, they produce a toxin. This poison can cause; weakness, sore throat, fever, and swollen glands in the neck.

The poison destroys healthy tissues in the respiratory system. Within two to three days, the dead tissue forms a thick, gray coating that can build up in the throat and nose. This
thick gray coating is called a “pseudomembrane.” It can cover tissues in the nose, tonsils, voice box, and throat, making it very hard to breathe and swallow. This is a painful death.

Most people in the United States don’t think about diphtheria, but it was once was a major cause of illness and death among children. In 1921, there were 206,000 cases of diphtheria
recorded in the United States. Of those, 15,520 resulted in death. What would you do to prevent your child from contracting this terrible disease? What would you do to prevent over 1,400 people from contracting the disease?


In 1925 the population of Nome, Alaska had shrunk to about 1,430 residents from its high of about 20,000 at the height of the gold rush. This port on the Seward Peninsula in
the Bering Sea was icebound and inaccessible by steamship from November to July each winter. The Iditarod Trail was the only connection Nome had to Seward and the rest of the
world. The trail is over 1,100 miles in length. It crosses several mountain ranges and valleys. In 1925 dogsleds using this trail was the primary means of supply Nome with mail
and supplies during the winter…


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