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Generally, until the 1960s, an outbreak of polio would be the country's biggest summer medical story, and while infantile paralysis was a grave concern in 1933, it was encephalitis that had doctors and researchers working overtime.

St. Louis, Missouri, was the center of the sleeping sickness epidemic — the strain of the disease that infected more than 1,000 persons became known as St. Louis encephalitis. More than 200 persons died. (The highest estimate I've seen was 283.)

Buffalo Courier-Express, September 24
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The sleeping sickness epidemic appears near its end, says Surgeon General Hugh S. Cummings of the U. S. Public Heath Service.

He said last night that no significant number of cases has been reported by any community except Jackson County.

Even though the epidemic may end as suddenly as it arose, Cummings said he expected research to continue.

“To solve this problem,” he said, “might help us solve such related problems as infantile paralysis. And it is important for us to arm ourselves against future epidemics with all the knowledge we can obtain.

The epidemic has taken 172 lives since mid-July in Greater St. Louis.

Doctors were desperate to find a cure. Assisting in one experiment were people equally desperate and wiling to take risks.

Syracuse American, October 8
RICHMOND, Virginia (INS) — Staking their chances of surviving against pardon offers, ten long-term convicts of the state penitentiary yesterday volunteered to be bitten by mosquitoes thought to be carrying the germ of encephalitis, or sleeping sickness.

The mosquitoes, brought here by representatives of the United States public health service, have bitten victims of the disease in St. Louis where an epidemic is raging.

While it likely was a different form of the disease, the most unusual — and most famous — case of sleeping sickness began in 1932 near Chicago. The victim would remain asleep all through 1933 and beyond.

Buffalo Courier-Express, September 24
CHICAGO (AP) — Sound asleep, Miss Patricia Maguire, Oak Park’s “sleeping beauty,” was taken to a hospital last night to aid science in its fight against sleeping sickness.

The young woman, who has been in a state of coma for nearly 20 months, was moved from her home to the West Suburban Hospital where X-ray pictures were taken of her.

These will be studied by physicians for conclusions they hope may cast some light on the mysterious ailment that has kept Miss Maguire asleep so long.

Permission to move the patient was given by her parents and her attending physician, Dr. Eugene Traut.

Patricia Maguire was stricken with chronic lethargic encephalitis on February 15, 1932, after having the flu. As she remained in her unusual coma, she attracted much interest, some of which led to preposterous and repugnant offers. Two people, for example, wanted to exhibit Miss Maguire at the Chicago World's Fair.

Her mother, Mrs. Peter Miley, never lost hope and devoted almost every waking hour to caring for her daughter. There were moments when she stirred enough to suggest she was coming out of her sleep, but she never did. She died on September 28, 1937 — after being in a stupor for five years and seven months.

THE YEAR began with an influenza epidemic in England. By January 17 the number of cases was estimated at 400,000. Unlike the worldwide flu epidemic of 1918, this one was not particularly deadly. Among the Brits who came down with the flu — and recovered — was Prince George, who was visiting the Earl of Faversham at Naughton Towers, near Helmsley. He remained in bed there until the flu passed.

(It's always difficult to keep the British royals straight. Prince George was a younger brother of Edward, who gave up the throne for Wallis Simpson, and of Albert, who took the name George VI, when he became king. Prince George became a member of the Royal Air Force and died on duty in a plane crash in 1942.)

In April there was an epidemic of typhus in Siberia. More than 400 Russians died. Three months later typhus was reported in Santiago, Chile, where about 250 people died of the disease.

In September, Britain's royal family faced a new epidemic, but managed to avoid the illness:

Syracuse Journal, September 19
BALLATER, Scotland (INS) — Stringent precautionary measures were taken at Balmoral Castle today after an epidemic of mumps affecting 40 children in the nearby Crathie School threatened members of the royal family at the castle.

The annual Ghillies ball scheduled at the castle for this week was canceled owing to fear of infection. Among those staying at Balmoral are King George, Queen Mary, the Prince of Wales, Prince George, the Duke and Duchess of York and Princess Elizabeth.

In October, a report from China claimed 50,000 persons had died in Hunan province of a mysterious plague described as resembling malaria.

Meanwhile, Tampico, Mexico, already devastated by a hurricane, had outbreaks of a disease doctors there called "a tropical fever." More than 100 children also came down with measles.

In December researchers in the New York City health department raised hopes with the announcement that a vaccine had been developed "by which it may be possible to immunize human beings against infantile paralysis." But a successful vaccine was still many years down the road.

 
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