Quarantine House Alpha, Grantville, 1632

"How do we feel today?" Katharina Anna Schrey asked Quarantine House Alpha's most important patient.

John Thompson Sims looked up from his sick bed. "Lousy!"

Katharina smiled down at the elderly doctor. He'd been her friend and mentor since she started the long course of training that would eventually qualify her as a doctor. "If you can complain, that is a sign you are getting better."

John rolled his eyes. "How badly did I have it?

"Not too badly. There were only a few pustules on your face, and with any luck, they'll barely leave a scar."

John nodded his understanding. "And the child I was treating, what happened to him?"

"He recovered. The whole family is now out of quarantine and has been placed in the refugee center."

"That's good to know." John shook his head in gentle wonder. "I wouldn't have thought my old vaccination would have been much good after thirty odd years. It's nice to think the older people in Grantville have some protection." He stopped when he saw Katharina's shaking head. "No?"

"Dr. Ellis drew blood from the team. We helped you fight the infection by pumping you full of anti-serum."

"Oh!"

"There is a bright side." Katharina smiled at Dr. Sims disappointed face. "Now there are two immune doctors. You and Dr. Abrabanel."

John shuddered. "Do you know how soon I can leave?"

"Dr. Abrabanel will visit later this evening. If he gives you the all clear, we can let you out tomorrow."

John's head sank back into his pillow. "You're all heart, Katharina."

Days later, a meeting room at the Leahy Medical Center

The people of Grantville had been extremely lucky. In a time when smallpox was endemic, they arrived in Thüringia between cyclic waves of the disease. It took an average of five years for the pool of vulnerable people in a community to grow large enough for the next wave. Children born since the last wave made up most of these pools. That's why smallpox was known as a childhood disease in this era. Either it killed you as a child, or you survived. But Grantville was different. Since smallpox was dropped from the national vaccination program in 1972 only the military and a few people traveling overseas might have been vaccinated, and even the military stopped vaccinating against smallpox in 1990. Only about half of the up-timers had ever been vaccinated, and if those vaccinations were more than ten years old, they were nearly useless. That meant that almost the entire up-timer population was vulnerable. If smallpox spread through Grantville, at least one in three up-timers could expect to die. That was if the medical services could cope. If they couldn't, well, there was evidence to suggest that the entire up-timer community could die.

The inevitable had to happen. Smallpox arrived, but the people of Grantville hadn't been standing idle. Precautions were being taken. Precautions most people probably didn't even notice. Then there was the processing of refugees by the sanitary commission. All refugees entering the Ring of Fire were examined by public health officers. The ill were quarantined until they either died or were declared well enough to enter the community. And the doctors had been busy looking for a vaccine.

Dr. Jeff Adams looked around the table. "Five days ago we discharged our first case of smallpox, a young boy from a refugee family. That means we finally have some smallpox virus to start the variolation program Dr. Abrabanel has been advocating this past year. Now we have to work out how to best use the limited supply of virus."

Hope Underwood, president of the Grantville chapter of the American Red Cross, looked over at Dr. Adams. "Isn't using smallpox virus dangerous? Isn't that why they used cowpox back up-time?"

"Immunization using smallpox isn't dangerous if it is done properly, Frau Underwood," Balthasar Abrabanel answered. "I immunized my daughter using the dust from a dried smallpox pustule with no ill effect. You are basing your fears on the abysmal techniques western medical doctors used." Balthasar shook his head in disgust. "Cutting into the arm and smearing the live virus into the wound. What do they expect but that the patients will die?"

"And anyway, Hope, we need a sample of cowpox before we can make a vaccine, and we haven't been able to find any. That's the only reason we're even thinking of using deactivated smallpox," Jeff said.

"What? But there are cows everywhere."

"Yes, there are cows everywhere, but that doesn't necessarily mean cowpox is everywhere. Les Blocker has had feelers out as far as Magdeburg, Leipzig, Nürnberg and Erfurt, but he hasn't heard a whisper of cowpox."

"Didn't Jenner use cowpox for his vaccinations? It must be around."

Jeff gave Hope a wry smile. "There's some question as to what Dr. Edward Jenner actually used. There's even some suggestion he used smallpox. Whatever it was he used, he was in England. Just as being an island protected England from rabies, it's possible that being an island stopped the spread of cowpox to the continent."

"That means we have to send someone to England to get some infected cows, then," Hope said.

"Maybe, but we can't afford to send anybody just yet. Anyway, horsepox should be a viable alternative, and Les is pretty sure there's horsepox on the continent. It's just a matter of finding an infected animal."

"And until that animal is found, we variolate using deactivated smallpox virus," Balthasar said.

Jeff nodded. "Right. We variolate until we can vaccinate with cow- or horse-pox."

Quarantine House Alpha

The house was on the very edge of the town, an older house, occupied by only half a dozen down-timers, though how they managed to rent such a desirable property Georg Lenkert had no idea. He was sharing a much smaller place with a dozen other guys, and even that stretched his budget.

Georg noted the gas and water meter readings, leaving just the electricity meter to go. Before the Ring of Fire it would have been accessible from outside the house, but like so many houses in Grantville, the owners of this one had enclosed the porch to give more living space. Georg knew where the key was kept, but it was good customer relations to check if someone was home first. And besides, if he was lucky, the Girl would answer the door.

The door opened at his knock to reveal . . . the wrong girl. Georg managed to hide his disappointment. Maybe the right girl was inside. Clipboard in hand, he tapped the official badge of the utility company he wore. "Meter man, Fraülein. I wish to read the electricity meter."

Lise Gebauer smiled and stepped back from the door. "Sure. You know where it is?"

We're really sorry, but this is only available to up-to-date paid subscribers.

Our columns and editorials are free, along with a few other items, but almost all stories and all downloads are paid only.

If you want to read the entire gazette, you need to either subscribe here, or purchase a download of any single issue at the Baen Books e-book store  or at Amazon.com.

- The Grantville Gazette Staff