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Chapter 9 : Smallpox, The Spotted Plague

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Abstract:

In 1521 the subjects of the Aztec Empire numbered in the millions. Incredibly, Hernan Cortes, with fewer than 600 troops, was able to topple it. The Aztecs were militaristic and wealthy, having subjugated other indigenous Indian tribes and then extracted tribute from them. Cortes and his Spanish conquistadors set out to explore and claim Mexico for their king, Charles V. They landed in the Yucatan on the eastern coast of Mexico. With their armor plate, swords, horses, rifles, cannons, and attack dogs, they appeared to the Aztecs as a formidable fighting force. They moved toward the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City) without much incident, but at Tenochtitlán there were encounters that showed the limitations of guns, steel, and horseflesh. The outnumbered Spaniards lost one-third of their troops, and Cortes and his army were forced to retreat. Cortes expected a final and crushing offensive by the Aztecs, one that would result in their complete defeat. The attack never came. On August 21 the Spaniards stormed the city, only to find that a greater force had ensured their victory. Bernal Diaz, witness to the scene, wrote:

I solemnly swear that all the houses and stockades in the lake were full of heads and corpses. It was the same in the streets and courts. … We could not walk without treading on the bodies and heads of the dead Indians. I have read about the destruction of Jerusalem, but I do not think the mortality was greater there than here in Mexico. … Indeed the stench was so bad that no one could endure it … and even Cortes was ill from the odors which assailed his nostrils.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Smallpox, The Spotted Plague, p 196-215. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch9
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Figures

Image of Figure 9.1
Figure 9.1

Child with smallpox. Courtesy CDC, Dr. Stan Foster, 1975.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Smallpox, The Spotted Plague, p 196-215. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.2
Figure 9.2

Smallpox 6 months after infection with residual facial scarring (pock marks) and loss of eyebrows and eyelashes. From: C. W. Dixon Smallpox, London: Churchill 1962.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Smallpox, The Spotted Plague, p 196-215. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.3
Figure 9.3

The smallpox virus as seen with the transmission electron microscope. The dumb-bell shaped structure is the core containing the genetic material. Courtesy of CDC/Steven Glenn, Laboratory Training & Consultation Division, 1979.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Smallpox, The Spotted Plague, p 196-215. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.4
Figure 9.4

Individual with smallpox pustules. From: C. W. Dixon. Smallpox, London: Churchill, 1962.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Smallpox, The Spotted Plague, p 196-215. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.5
Figure 9.5

Cowpox on cow udder. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Smallpox, The Spotted Plague, p 196-215. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.6
Figure 9.6

Edward Jenner (1749-1823) performing the first vaccination against smallpox in 1796. The woman wrapping her wrist is Sarah Nelms. A 1879 oil on canvas painting by Gaston Melingue (1840-1914)/Academic Nacionale de Medicine, Paris, France/Archives Charmet/Bridgeman Images.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Smallpox, The Spotted Plague, p 196-215. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.7
Figure 9.7

Cartoon of Edward Jenner. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London, CC-BY 4.0.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Smallpox, The Spotted Plague, p 196-215. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch9
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References

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