A friend of mine, when I proposed starting this blog, thought I should focus on how dangerous some diseases are. That was a good suggestion and it coincides with where I wanted to start.
So here is where the world of vaccination started. Smallpox. I bet most readers of this blog have never seen a case of smallpox. If you haven’t, you’re lucky. Because if you saw one up close, you’d run. Here’s a young girl from Bangladesh with advanced smallpox.
Heartbreaking, isn’t it? The sores, or pustules, if she survived the attack, turned to horrific, deforming scars. Some of the other possible side effects of survival included potential encephalitis (brain swelling), osteoarthritis, corneal scarring or blindness. You get the picture. Acute smallpox (yes there are degrees of smallpox awfulness) killed about from 30-75% of its victims, from what I can gather from casually scanning internet records.
Smallpox has been known since ancient times. It’s thousands of years old. It’s a natural, vicious, horrific disease. A smallpox epidemic was feared by all cultures, all political systems, everyone. If you want more info on the history of smallpox in the US, read Pox. It’s far-better researched than anything I can attempt here. Brilliant stuff.
Currently, smallpox is (effectively) eradicated because of a concerted, determined, dogged, worldwide vaccination campaign that seized on a bit of biological serendipity. And that will be the subject of my next post.