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Ss "Carnarvon Castle" (Chicken-Pox Case)

Volume 441: debated on Monday 28 July 1947

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asked the Minister of Health if he will give full details of the case on the "Carnarvon Castle," which was for several days stated to be a case of smallpox but eventually turned out to be chicken-pox; how frequently had the patient been vaccinated; who decided that it was a case of chicken-pox, and when; why an official of his Department cabled to the captain of the "Carnarvon Castle" that all the passengers must be vaccinated; and if he will instruct his officials to make it clear that every passenger has a right to be vaccinated or not.

On 5th July, the port medical officer at Southampton received a radio message from the "Caernarvon Castle" (through the local agents of the Union Castle Line) stating that the ship's surgeon reported a case of small-pox on board. The ship arrived in Cowes Roads on 8th July, and the port medical officer and four of his medical officers boarded the ship. The port medical officer examined the patient—a man—and diagnosed the case as one of chicken-pox. The man had last been vaccinated in 1945, and previously in 1943, successfully on both occasions. The captain and the ship's surgeon had two or three days previously made a public announcement that there was a case of small-pox on board, and the port authorities at Las Palmas, at which the ship had called, had diagnosed small-pox. The port medical officer reports that he therefore decided to examine all the passengers and crew, taking their names and addresses, because, although he had diagnosed chicken-pox, the possibility of modified small-pox could not, in the circumstances, be ignored. Subsequent bacteriological examination of the specimen taken from the patient definitely confirmed the case as chicken-pox. No officer of the Ministry cabled to the captain of the ship or required anybody to be vaccinated.