When it came to deadly epidemics, the Soviets didn’t do half-measures. Not only doctors, but the police, army, navy, and even the KGB were all brought in to curb the spread.
Simon Gorelik. Archive photo, Naum Granovsky/МАММ/МDF
In 1939, microbiologist Abram Berlin brought a dangerous disease back with him to Moscow from Saratov. There in Saratov, during experiments on animals, he used the living causative agent of the plague, and was strictly confined to quarantine.
However, an urgent call from Moscow forced him to go immediately to the capital, unleashing the plague. Berlin checked in at the Hotel National, dined there, and visited a hairdresser.
Feeling very ill, patient zero was hospitalized under the erroneous diagnosis of croupous pneumonia. The credit for catching the epidemic in time goes to Simon Gorelik, a physician at the 1st Moscow Medical Institute.
Having identified pulmonary plague in the patient, Gorelik immediately reported the danger to his superiors and isolated both himself and Berlin. He knew that they were both doomed, since plague in those days was incurable.
The secret police located and quarantined everyone in the city who had been in contact with Abram Berlin. The clinic where he was stationed was cordoned off, and the Hotel National was disinfected (at night to prevent the information from leaking and causing panic).
As a result, the plague epidemic was nipped in the bud. Only three died from the fatal disease: Gorelik, Berlin, and the unfortunate hairdresser.