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Chapter 9 : Smallpox, the Spotted Plague

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Abstract:

Smallpox was at one time one of the most devastating of all human diseases, yet no one really knows when smallpox began to infect humans. The best evidence of smallpox in humans have found in three Egyptian mummies, dating from 1570 to 1085 BC. The first outbreak of smallpox in the Americas was among African slaves on the island of Hispaniola in 1518. There are two pathologic varieties of the smallpox virus: Variola major and Variola minor. In the 17th century, smallpox was Europe's most common and devastating disease, killing an estimated 400,000 each year. With the outbreak of war in 1775, the most dangerous enemy the colonists had to fight was not the British but smallpox. Eradication of smallpox was possible for three reasons: First, there were no animal reservoirs. Second, the methods of preserving the vaccine proved to be effective. Third, the vaccine was easily administered. Smallpox is the first and only naturally occurring disease to be eradicated by human intervention. Smallpox also provided the incentive for the development of protective measures (variolation and vaccination), affected the cultural responses to disease, and contributed to the establishment of more humane public health policies. The eradication of smallpox has demonstrated that through vaccination there is the possibility for the elimination of other infectious diseases that continue to plague humankind.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Smallpox, the Spotted Plague, p 190-209. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch9
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Figures

Image of Figure 9.1
Figure 9.1

Mother and child infected with smallpox. (Courtesy of CDC/Dr. Stan Foster.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Smallpox, the Spotted Plague, p 190-209. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.2
Figure 9.2

Pharaoh Ramses V and his pock-marked face.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Smallpox, the Spotted Plague, p 190-209. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.3
Figure 9.3

The smallpox virus as seen with the transmission electron microscope. The dumbbell-shaped structure is the core containing the genetic material (DNA). (Photo by Eye of Science/Photo Researchers, Inc. © 2005 Photo Researchers, Inc.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Smallpox, the Spotted Plague, p 190-209. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.4
Figure 9.4

The progression of smallpox [From: C. W. Dixon, Smallpox (London: Churchill 1962)]. (A) Day 3; (B) day 4; (C) day 6; and (D) six months after infection with residual facial scarring and loss of eyebrows and eyelashes.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Smallpox, the Spotted Plague, p 190-209. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.5
Figure 9.5

Pedigree of the Royal British Houses of Stuart and Hanover.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Smallpox, the Spotted Plague, p 190-209. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.6
Figure 9.6

Cowpox pustules on cow's udder (A) and vaccination on human arm (B). (Courtesy of the Wellcome Library of Medicine.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Smallpox, the Spotted Plague, p 190-209. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch9
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Image of Figure 9.7
Figure 9.7

The vaccination for smallpox has been described in both a humorous (A) and a frightening (B) way. (Courtesy of the Wellcome Library of Medicine.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Smallpox, the Spotted Plague, p 190-209. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch9
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