Letter to the Editor - Memories of another plague

Letter to the editor:

The disruption and sorrows emanating from the current Coronavirus disease, worldwide, reminds me of another plague that I was part of some 75 years ago. I do not recall the year it arrived here, or how widespread and high in numbers at its peak, but I am sure there are many books and articles with statistics and facts about it in our libraries. As I was born in 1926 I know I was there, in Regina, when it appeared, and in Yorkton when it peaked and, eventually brought under control. Unfortunately, it has not been totally eradicated. I became very aware and involved with tuberculosis, as an epidemic, in 1952 after I had moved to Yorkton to work for Korb motors as a travelling parts sales person and joined the Yorkton Associated Travellers Club. The Yorkton ACT Club, along with the other 6 Saskatchewan clubs were well into their SATURDAY NITE AMATEUR SHOWS, raising funds for the Sask. Anti-TB League.

This association began in 1933, when a group of salesmaen, travelling by rail because of blocked winter roads, were approached by Dr. George Ferguson of the Sask. Anti-TB League. He outlined to them the dire need of funds for the League to carry on its program of prevention and treatment of tuberculosis. The request was very timely, as the A.C.T. were looking for a worthwhile cause to increase their membership and provide a service to their country.

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To raise funds, they sold Christmas seals and health bonds, conducted raffles, held dances and, everywhere, publicized the Anti-TB program of early detection & treatment (do I hear a loud AHA, RIGHT ON?) Then, in 1945 the ACT ‘Search for Talent’ on the ACT-Anti-TB AMATEUR SHOWS were originated on Saturday nights. This is where I became fully involved in the fundraising participation. That program which carried on into the early 60’s, raised over $1 million dollars for the League (Now the Sask Lung Association). A book could be written of those talent shows and the effect on the artists and the rural communities. Suffice to say that a great deal of ingenuity, support, and cooperation were required to make this such a successful venture and result.

Up to now, it appears that they provided a blueprint for our current crisis. Since it was an invisible cloud driven by human activity, it also, could not be stopped. But it could be predicted, with early warnings to world leaders and health organizations, that it had arrived. Naturally, any delays in preparing, by not increasing stocks of medical equipment and supplies, along with a co-ordinated plan of delaying its spread, would bring tragic results. So, preparation now needed to be followed by factual information and prevention of spreading the infection. One big difference is now apparent. Which was the type of isolation! Those that were discovered to be infected were immediately sent to a sanitorium, specifically built, equipped and staffed as a treatment centre for TB patients. They were, effectively separated from patients in hospitals, family members, as well as other people. The difference in treatment, and location, likely resulted in earlier recovery and lower deaths. Since they were still in the discovery stage in 1933 and the fund raising and treatment stage in the mid 40’s, it is a matter of multiple years, rather than weeks or months to find a cure or vaccine to bring this pandemic under effective control. Be fully aware that tuberculosis and coronavirus will never be eradicated. Even if the virus is effectively isolated, it will remain dormant without human transport. So, we must be ready and prepared to tuck it back in immediately!

We, in Canada, were fortunate to have governments and the Anti-TB League co-operating and coordinating procedures to, eventually bring this disease under control. This was the most successful through the involvement of the 7 A.C.T. clubs in organizing the Talent shows and fundraising; the radio stations, such as CJGX who provided the staff and equipment to broadcast them; Sask. Telephones, who made the phone lines available to bring the program into our homes; The Yorkton Enterprise who gave a report on each show. These shows would not have been possible without local organizations and leaders lining up the contestants, whose performances provided a much needed source of entertainment for rural residents. Many of those contestants began a musical career through their participation. That is the devotion we need today to bring this pandemic under control. It remains to be seen whether a blueprint follows the same path, such as a massive testing program, masks, distancing, cures, business as usual, congregating, and a vaccine to control it! The push today is for an immediate and massive testing program to identify the infected, positive and negative persons, to plan future processes. For sure, total control will not be possible without vaccination.

I, personally, have been fortunate. Although I was surrounded by the TB virus and its carriers, I did not get sick but did test positive. Which means I had been exposed and infected, but my immune system had rejected it. Today I live in a province with only 300 cases and a city with no reported deaths from Coronavirus to date. So little chance of infection. Yes. I am concerned that it may spread so that I or my family will be infected.

Bill Stubbings
Yorkton, SK.

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