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A Brief History Of Smallpox

Smallpox, an extremely infectious disease caused by one of two varieties of virus, was a serious worldwide medical concern until its elimination by vaccination. Over the span of human history, the presence of smallpox has waxed and waned, leaving in its wake outbreaks of the virus which, at times, reached pandemic proportions. While smallpox is not always a fatal illness, every variety has the potential to be fatal. As late as the mid 1900s, even individuals living in first world countries were routinely immunized against the destructive virus, a vaccination which leaves a distinctive circular scar. Smallpox is no longer a serious threat, but it has an extensive history and has made its mark on humankind.

The History of Smallpox

It is estimated that the presence of virus variants Variola major and Variola minor, the variants responsible for smallpox, were first observed in humans circa 10,000 BC. The first historical evidence of a smallpox case that was conclusively observed was done so when examining the remains of the Pharaoh Ramses V. The virus took the lives of over four hundred thousand Europeans per year as the conclusion of the 18th century neared, and was the third leading cause of vision loss. Adults who contracted the disease during this time had as much as a 60% chance of loss of life, (Read More)....