How dozens of men across Alaska (and their dogs) teamed up to save one town from a deadly outbreak

How dozens of men across Alaska (and their dogs) teamed up to save one town from a deadly outbreak

In 1925, health officials in Alaska came up with a creative solution to save a remote fishing town from a deadly disease outbreak.

Photo by Ugur Arpaci on Unsplash

During the winter of 1924, Curtis Welch – the only doctor in Nome, a remote fishing town in northwest Alaska – started noticing something strange. More and more, the children of Nome were coming to his office with sore throats.

Initially, Welch dismissed the cases as tonsillitis or some run-of-the-mill virus – but when more kids started getting sick, with some even dying, he grew alarmed. It wasn’t until early 1925, after a three-year-old boy died just two weeks after becoming ill, that Welch realized that his worst suspicions were true. The boy – and dozens of other children in town – were infected with diphtheria.

A DEADLY BACTERIA

Diphtheria is nearly nonexistent and almost unheard of in industrialized countries today. But less than a century ago, diphtheria was a household name – one that struck fear in the heart of every parent, as it was extremely contagious and particularly deadly for children.

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Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at @swattswrites.

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