The Lengths We Went to For Public Health

An epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable here STOP I am in urgent need of one million units of diphtheria antitoxin STOP Mail is only form of transportation STOP I have made application to Commissioner of Health of the Territories for antitoxin already STOP There are about 3000 white natives in the district.

Before modern medicine virtually eliminated many common illnesses, the effects of infection and outbreak were heartbreaking and tragic. But not always.

Readers across the country eagerly followed the headlines that January of 1925. The “Great Race of Mercy” held their rapt attention. Children were dying in Nome, Alaska, and the diphtheria epidemic would surely kill the entire population without the necessary antitoxin to save them. The nation held its breath as¬†20 Alaskan mushers and their dog teams relayed the lifesaving serum across 674 miles of the vast, frozen territory. It was heroism at its best. (source)

Image: Celebrated sled dog Balto with Gunnar Kaasen. Norwegian immigrant Gunnar Kaasen was the musher on the last dog team that successfully delivered diphtheria antitoxin to Nome, Alaska in 1925. Balto was the lead dog for that final leg of 53 miles of the total 674-mile trip.

Originally published on The Minot Voice: February 15, 2015