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A serious outbreak of smallpox was recorded in Sydney between May 1881 and February 1882 when 154 cases were recorded. Six years later the first cases were documented in Tasmania. In 1887, 35 cases were recorded in Launceston, eleven of which were fatal. Other than a further two cases in that city in 1888, there were no further outbreaks until 1903 when a second epidemic of 66 cases struck Launceston, resulting in around twenty deaths. A peak year for vaccination was 1883 when 2326 children were inoculated. Results would undoubtedly have been better but for a newspaper campaign opposing vaccination and associating it with venereal disease. Nonetheless, smallpox was effectively wiped out in Tasmania after the 1903 outbreak.

Further reading: M Roe, 'Smallpox in Launceston', THRAPP 23/4, 1976.

Bruce Rosen