We are all so tired of COVID and are now facing a seventh wave. Understandably you may not want to watch “Another Spring” or perhaps you have a keen interest in witnessing how a smallpox outbreak in 1972 Yugoslavia was managed effectively.
Ground zero was Muslim clergyman Ibrahim Hoti who travelled to Iraq on a Hajj and most likely contracted smallpox at a bazaar in Baghdad and brought it back to Yugoslavia on February 15,1972 after his long bus trip. Diagnosis took some time as Yugoslavia had its last smallpox case in 1930. Most of the country had been previously vaccinated and it was thought the first cases were an allergic reaction to penicillin. The first correct diagnosis was on March 14, 1972 in Kosovo and the disease spread to Belgrade. The Yugoslav government reacted with lightning speed responding with a mass revaccination campaign of close to 18 million citizens, strict quarantine and declared martial law. By May 8th smallpox was squashed in Yugoslavia.
The archival footage most in slow motion and black and white with a spooky soundtrack adds starkness and seriousness. And smallpox you can see is a vicious disease covering the body with sores so the body looks like a gigantic sore. It liquifies its victims many who hemorrhage to death.
There were only 35 deaths in Yugoslavia and 175 infections.
Draw the lessons you want from the documentary but it might cause you to think:
- The efficacy of vaccinations
- The compelling rationale that plagues will always exist
- The medical establishment not always getting it right
- What reaction is justified on the part of the state to contain the disease
- Burnout and fear and medical staff is part of the plague scenario
- The necessity to be prepared for continued epidemics as a fact of life.
Oddly enough I spent some 3 months in Yugoslavia in 1972 just after the outbreak. In those days one travelling to Europe had an up-to-date smallpox and cholera vaccination.
This 2022 documentary is a French/Serbia/Qatar production directed by Mladen Kovačević.