Research, Technology

How did Moscow doctors prevent a smallpox epidemic in 1960?

More disturbing news on the Internet has become even more -the other day, in several countries at once, cases of infection with monkeypox were recorded. My colleague Lyubov Sokovikova spoke in detail about what kind of disease it is and whether there is a vaccine for it, here is the link (be sure to read!!!).In the article, she mentioned an outbreak of smallpox in Moscow that occurred in 1960. The virus was brought to the USSR by the artist Alexei Kokorekin, who returned from a two-week trip to India, where he visited the Ganges River, in which the bodies of dead people literally float. There he attended the funeral of a brahmin and bought a carpet that belonged to him at a sale. After arriving home, the man began to feel ill and the doctors could not understand what he was ill with. Later it turned out that he had contracted smallpox, and all the inhabitants of Moscow and other cities were in danger. But a large-scale epidemic was avoided - let's find out why?

In 1960, the smallpox virus was brought to Moscow, but the epidemic was averted in just 44 days.


  • 1 How did smallpox appear in Moscow?
  • 2 Finding people with smallpox
  • 3 Moscow quarantine in 1960
  • 4 Vaccination of people against smallpox

How did smallpox appear in Moscow?

All the most important about the importation of the smallpox virus by AlexeiMy colleague Lyubov Sokovikova has already told Kokorekin. After arriving in Moscow, the Soviet artist visited his mistress and presented her with a carpet that belonged to a Brahmin whose funeral he had attended. Apparently, none of those present at the funeral knew that the Brahmin had died of smallpox. According to the candidate of biological sciences Fyodor Lisitsyn, if this information were known, no one would have allowed the artist to look at the corpse, and even more so, they would not have put the deceased’s things up for sale.

Artist Alexey Kokorekin

Remarkably, that the funeral of a Brahmin took place in the city of Varanasi,on the banks of the Ganges river. Hindus sincerely believe that the waters of this river carry people straight to paradise. So it is not surprising that the river and its banks are full of human corpses. The Ganges River is full of dangerous bacteria and viruses, so it is easy to pick up deadly diseases there.

Further information in the sources is given differently.Somewhere they say that after meeting with his mistress, Alexei Kokorekin went to his family and felt unwell after a couple of days. And in other sources they write that the man became ill right at his mistress. Be that as it may, he ended up in the hospital and the doctors could not understand what he was ill with. He was diagnosed with the flu, but no medication helped him. One of the young nurses, seeing a rash on the patient's skin, suggested that it was smallpox. But more experienced colleagues ridiculed her, because this disease had not been seen in the USSR since 1936.

Doctors for a long time could not understand what Alexey Kokorekin was sick with

But the nurse was right.After the death of Alexei Kokorekin, he was diagnosed with "plague in question" and then the staff (including a nurse) and patients of the hospital developed the same symptoms. The woman survived, but two of her male colleagues died. Later, during the examination of the body of one of them, the causative agent of smallpox was found.


Finding smallpox people

News about the discovery of the smallpox virus in Moscowquickly reached the Kremlin. It was clear to everyone that a lot of time was lost in trying to diagnose Alexei Kokorekin. Everything happened during the New Year holidays, so all the people who came into contact with him could quickly spread the disease. To find them, the KGB, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Soviet army, the Ministry of Health and other departments were involved. First it was found out that the artist brought the virus from India. It also became clear that the artist had a mistress. Remember that he gave her a carpet of a smallpox Brahmin? It turned out that the mistress gave this gift to a thrift store. This means that the spread of the virus was not only people, but also this ill-fated carpet.

Drastic measures have been taken to stop the spread of the virus

Department officials had to look for all the peoplewith whom the artist was in contact. Then, in a chain, they found out with whom this group of people communicated and so on. It turned out that his colleague Ruben Suryaninov visited the artist in the hospital. After that, he and his wife felt bad, but despite this, the wife decided to fly to Riga to take the exam. She became too ill, and Ruben had to fly after her, and together they returned to Moscow. The special services had to look not only for them, but for all the passengers on the planes. All these people have been quarantined.

Potential carriers of the virus were placed in quarantine

Moscow quarantine in 1960

As a result of the operation to find carriers of smallpox,Several dozen cases and approximately 11,000 potential carriers were identified. In general, the whole of Moscow, where more than seven million people lived in the middle of the 20th century, was under threat. The city was isolated, but ordinary citizens did not know this - everything was done without declaring a state of emergency. Citizens were simply advised not to leave their homes for a long time, and ticket sales for transport were stopped.

In the 1960s, you could meet doctors in protective suits

Information about the smallpox outbreak was kept secret.People familiar with the situation understood that if this news became public knowledge, the people would begin to panic. Residents of Moscow would begin to leave the city and spread the disease throughout Russia. Needless to say, rumors about the disease sometimes spread, but they were stopped in time.

Smallpox outbreak kept secret


Vaccination of people against smallpox

To stop the disease, all the people in Moscowneeded to be vaccinated. The vaccine already existed, but there was very little of it, because by the 1960s almost everyone had already forgotten about the disease. An accelerated production of the vaccine was launched and aircraft were used to transport it to Moscow. According to information from the Internet, it took only one day to transport. In total, about 10 million doses were delivered.

Smallpox vaccination in 1960


Aware of the need to vaccinate peoplethrough radio and other means of communication. It was impossible to refuse this, because even travel tickets were not sold without a certificate of vaccination. More than 3,000 points were opened for vaccination, in which 26,963 doctors worked. Between January 16 and 27, 1960, 6,187,690 people were vaccinated. It took 44 days to clear up a smallpox outbreak. During this time, 46 people were infected with smallpox, including Alexei Kokorekin, three of them died.
What exactly helped prevent the epidemicterrible disease, it is not clear. Perhaps the absence of the Internet was an important factor - there was practically no panic and all people acted calmly. What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments.