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Smallpox memories akin to COVID-19

April 2020 |

It’s often said the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, but some people have longer memories than that.

When asked if current events were similar to anything experienced previously, Bruce Blanch, a 75 year old resident at Wahroonga Aged Care in Biloela, remembers a smallpox epidemic in the 1960s  generating panic.

“It has certainly come close (to current events),” Bruce said.

“At one stage, back in the early 60s, my parents got a bit panick-y about smallpox.

“I was still going to school, and they even had polio (in the community).

Smallpox was eradicated in 1979 after resulting in an estimated 300-500 million deaths in the 20th century, according to the World Health Organisation.

“We had to get injections,” he said.

People weren’t panicking like they are now though. I think it’s because they hadn’t got TVs ramming it down your neck every day of the week. You can’t get away from it at the moment. The TV makes it feel worse, doesn’t it?”

Bruce said he does not feel too distant from family. He has been embracing technology.

“(Creative Programs Coordinator) Amanda brings around an iPad so I can talk to my friends and family on it, which helps,.” He said.

“I’ve also been receiving lots of letters from my nieces, so keeping in touch that way.”

“I even attended a funeral via video on the iPad this morning, of a friend of mine. The staff organised it all for me. That was nice.”