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Did brief meeting transfer deadly strain of virus?

DID Janet Parker visit either the smallpox lab or the corridor leading to it? Or did she come into contact with someone who had been there who may have been inadvertently carrying the virus? Someone who was vaccinated. Janet had the jab in 1966 and her protection had run out. There is no record of Janet ever directly visiting the pox lab but she sometimes used a darkroom belonging to the anatomy department which was on the same corridor and only about 15ft away.

There is also a suggestion that she visited an enquiry office opposite the darkroom in order to deliver some photographic prints around the last week in July.

The inquiry acknowledged she had at least one definite meeting with someone who frequented the lab. Professor Reginald Shooter's report said: "The contact was a member of the Medical Microbiology Department who visited the animal pox room on most days to give advice on experimental work being undertaken, but who never entered the smallpox room. On these visits a laboratory coat was not always worn, and the hands were not washed when leaving.

"The visitor had consulted Janet in her studio and darkroom at least once, and perhaps twice during that last week in July.

"The purpose of the visit was to discuss with Janet the technical details of a photographic process she used for making contact prints which might be applied to some work then going on in the Medical Microbiology Department.

"With the lapse of time it was not possible to establish if the visit to Janet took place immediately after leaving the animal pox room or not. As a member of the staff of the Microbiology Department, the visitor was regularly vaccinated every two years and would therefore run little risk of contacting smallpox.

"There is, however, the possibility that the visitor's hands or clothes were contaminated in the animal pox room from smallpox virus deposited on surfaces or perhaps airborne, and in this way the virus was carried to Janet."

Could this brief meeting have been the fatal moment? Or did she meet others who, in view of the tragedy and concerns about how those meetings may be viewed by the university hierarchy - perhaps even with disciplinary fears - later felt it judicious to keep quiet?


| The wing of the University of Birmingham Medical School where the lab was

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 2, 2018
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