Smallpox Outbreak of 1849


Rumours having reached Charlottetown that the Small Pox introduced into the Eastern part of the Island, from St. John's, Newfoundland, was spreading to an alarming extent among the inhabitants. His Excellency Sir Donald Campbell, with that promptitude and benevolence of purpose which have characterized every act of his administration, wherever the welfare of the people is concerned, determined to visit in person the scene of the disease, in order, in the first place, to ascertain if precautionary measures had been adopted by the local authorities to arrest its progress; and secondly, to see that its unfortunate victims were properly attended to.

With these views, His Excellency, accompanied by the Hon. Mr. Haviland, left town for Souris on Monday last; from whence he returned on Tuesday evening; and from the information with which we have been favoured, our apprehensions of the disease extending itself beyond its present locality, are greatly allayed. We are glad to learn that it is as yet confined to the passengers and crew of the Schr. Damsel, in which vessel the disease was brought to Grand River; among these, twenty-three in number, fourteen cases have occurred, seven of which have proved fatal.

Although the number of deaths may at first appear to warrant the supposition of a great degree of malignity in the disease, yet, if the circumstances of the persons affected, and their imprudence, previously to the disease manifesting itself, be considered, the extent of the mortality is not so surprising.

With the exception of one individual, who was labouring under the disease when the vessel arrived, and who has since recovered, eight days had elapsed before its effects were visible on the remainder; during that time the parties pursued their ordinary avocations, and many of them, unfortunately, indulged too freely in the use of ardent spirits, which must have contributed greatly to the virulence of the disease.

To the Board of Health at Souris every credit is due for the means adopted by them in the emergency, to prevent contagion, and to render the situation of the persons already seized, as comfortable as circumstances would permit. They caused a vacant building to be placed about a half a mile from the main road, and to be fitted up as an Hospital, to which the sick were removed, placed under medical and other proper attendance, and furnished with every necessary that could mitigate or alleviate their sufferings. This Hospital was visited by His Excellency, who sympathised with the patients, and expressed a sanguine hope of their ultimate recovery; they were four in number, all of whom, as stated by Dr. Kaye, the medical attendant, who has been unremitting in his attention, are progressing towards convalescence. We have obtained, and give below, the names and residences of those who have been infected with the disease, and also of those to whom it has proved fatal:

  • John Deagle, recovered.
  • Simon Deagle, jun., Rollo Bay, dead.
  • Charles Deagle, Rollo Bay, In Hospital, convalescent.
  • Elias Deagle, Rollo Bay, In Hospital, convalescent.
  • John Bourke, In Hospital, convalescent.
  • John Costelo, Rollo Bay, In Hospital, convalescent.
  • William Belson Grand River, dead.
  • James Butler Grand River, dead.
  • Daniel Macdonald, Little Pond, dead.
  • Joseph Brown, Little River, convalescent.
  • John Reynolds, Master, Oyster Creek, dead.
  • Matthias Revel, Head of St. Peter's Bay, dead.
  • Hugh M'Innes, Hollow River, Lot 42, dead.
  • Hugh Macdonald, Goose River, Lot 42, recovered.

It is to be feared that all the families of the infected persons will not escape the disease; but from the season of the year, and the precautions which have been taken, we have every hope that it will not prove of a virulent character; at the same time, we cannot impress too strongly upon the public mind the necessity of having recourse to the only remedy which has yet been found to check the ravages of this dreadful calamity, viz: -- vaccination.

We understand that Dr. Kaye has successfully vaccinated several persons, and we trust that the Medical practitioners throughout the Island will avail themselves of the occasion to procure a supply of virus, and extend its benefits to the population generally.