x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Time Frame: Dubai's 1967 smallpox outbreak

This picture shows people arriving for treatment at Dubai's Maktoum Hospital during a smallpox outbreak in March 1967.

The 1967 smallpox outbreak was swiftly contained thanks to a mass civilian vaccination programme and an effective system of quarantine. Chris Ware / Keystone Features / Getty Images
The 1967 smallpox outbreak was swiftly contained thanks to a mass civilian vaccination programme and an effective system of quarantine. Chris Ware / Keystone Features / Getty Images

In early March 1967, doctors in Dubai's Maktoum Hospital admitted an Indian man whose undiagnosed rash was swiftly recognised as a case of smallpox.

A few days later a second Indian male began to show the same symptoms. Both men had arrived some days earlier at Ras Al Khaimah on a dhow from Bombay (now Mumbai), along with nearly 50 other passengers.

The smallpox outbreak, which eventually reached 11 cases and caused two deaths, both children, put great strain on the city's health resources.

Maktoum Hospital, shown in this photograph from the year of the outbreak, had been opened in 1951, but by 1967 the city still had less than 75 beds.

Smallpox had long been a scourge of the region. An outbreak in Bur Dubai in 1841 led to the development of Deira as families fled across the Creek.

The 1967 outbreak was swiftly contained thanks to a mass civilian vaccination programme and an effective system of quarantine.

Three years later a more serious outbreak. again brought in from South Asia, spread from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, this time causing 11 deaths.

It was the last gasp of the disease, though. The UAE has been smallpox free ever since, with the disease officially declared eradicated worldwide on May 8, 1980.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae