History And Eradication Of Smallpox Essay

2375 words - 10 pages

History and Eradication of Smallpox

The smallpox virus has affected the human species for centuries. It has been recorded as early as 1350 BC in ancient Egypt.The smallpox disease is caused by the Variola virus which only inhabits the human organism. There are two forms of the disease major and minor. The major has a mortality rate of 20-40% of untreated individuals. Though major and minor eventually run the same course and the outcome is the same, the major has symptoms that are distinct from the minor form, including hemorrhaging both internally and externally. Early treatment of the disease was variolation, and was the only method of treatment until the vaccine was discovered by Edward Jenner. The World Health Organization (WHO) eradicated smallpox in 1979. There is still no effective treatment for the disease after contraction.
The speckled monster, the killer of both kings and peasants, once considered the most terrible minister of death; smallpox had ravaged the world for centuries. The virus emerged from an unknown source, however there is belief that it originated in Africa and then eventually spread to India and China. The first documented case of smallpox was dated in 1350 BC during the Egyptian-Hittite war.(Emedmag,2002) The course of the pandemic turned towards Europe in the 5th to 7th century and begun it destruction in major European cities in the 18th century. Classified as a pandemic during the 18th century, smallpox was located on almost the entire world save Australia and a few isolated islands.
Smallpox did not only impact medical history, but also was a great influence in politics as well. Smallpox was known as the killer of peasants and kings, showing no biasness in its selection of victims. Skin lesions that resembled smallpox were found on the body of exhumed mummies, including that of the Egyptian king Ramses V, who died as a young man in 1157 BC. Smallpox claimed great individuals such as: Marcus Aurelius (emperor of Rome, AD 180), Abbul al-Abbaas al-
History and Eradication of Smallpox 2
Saffah ( the first Abbasid caliph), William II of Orange, Ferdinand IV (king of Austria, 1654), Joseph I (king of Austria, 1711), Peter II (Tsar of Russia, 1730), Louis XV (king of France, 1774), Mary II (Queen of England). Also affected by the virus, though not killed, were individuals that include: Elizabeth I of England, and Abraham Lincoln who was ill with disease during the Gettysburg Address.(Encarta 2000)
Smallpox also has a record of decimating or contributing to the demise of great empires. The first stages of the decline of the Roman Empire coincided with an epidemic, the plague of Antonine, which caused the demise of approximately 3.5-7 million individuals. Smallpox also played a role in the destruction of the Aztec and Inca empires, brought over by the Spanish and the Portuguese conquistadors. With the introduction of Spaniards in Mexico in 1518, the population of natives declined from 25 million inhabitants to 1.6...

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