The race that commemorates a mercy run

The Iditarod dog sled race is currently underway. The race starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome. It is over 1000 miles long, and takes more than a week to complete.
What a lot of people don’t know is that the race commemorates the “Great Race of Mercy”. In December 1924, there was an outbreak of diphtheria in Nome. The supply of diphtheria antitoxin had expired, and the order for a new batch hadn’t arrived. Eight deaths had occurred by January 28, with 20 more confirmed diphtheria cases.
At a meeting in Nome on Janury 24, it was decided that the antitoxin would be carried by dogsled, as the only aeroplanes were not suitable for winter flight, and the only available pilot was inexperienced.
The run began on 27 January in Nenana, with musher William Shannon making the run to Minto, where Edgar Kallands took it to Manley Hot Springs. Several mushers then relayed it, then George Nollner handed it over to Charlie Evans at Bishop Mountain on January 30. Evans handed over to Tommy Patsy after a 7-hour run. Patsy delivered the serum to “Jackscrew” and Victor Anagick, who crossed the Kaltag Portage. Myles Gonangan then relayed it from Unalakleet to Shaktoolik. Leonhard Seppala hadn’t arrived but Henry Ivanoff was on standby, and took the serum. He and his team crashed, then Seppala appeared.
Leonhard Seppala’s run was the longest. He took the serum to Golovin where Charlie Olsen was waiting.
Olsen took the serum to Bluff where Gunnar Kaasen was waiting to make the final leg. He initially waited for the weather to clear, but it worsened so he left at 10pm. He arrived at Point Safety ahead of schedule at 3am on February 2, but since Ed Rohn, the final musher, was sleeping, Kaasen decided to do the last 25-mile leg and arrived in Nome at 5:30 am.
No more deaths occurred after the serum arrived. A second serum run using most of the original mushers was made, which arrived in Nome on 15 February.
The delivery of the serum probably saved hundreds of children. What makes diphtheria so dangerous is diphtheria toxin. This is what made the use of serum necessary. The fatality rate of diphtheria is 5-10%. Myocarditis and peripheral neuropathy can occur in survivors. Today, several triple vaccines which guard against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis are available. From 1980 to 2000, there were only 53 cases in the whole of the US.
There is no good non-mediacl reason to refuse vaccination against diphtheria. After the break up of the Soviet Union the number of cases in the former soviet republics skyrocketed. Even with the medical treatment available, diphtheria can kill. Don’t forget to vaccinate.


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I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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