Charles Clanton Rogers

Reflections based on poetry, music, visual art, book reviews, history of science, first-person history, philosophical essays and International Blogging

“In Europe, near the end of the eighteenth century, the disease accounted for nearly 400,000 deaths each year, including five kings. Of those surviving, one-third were blinded. The worldwide death toll was staggering and continued well into the Twentieth Century, where mortality has been estimated at 300 to 500 million. This number vastly exceeds the combined total of deaths in all World Wars” [ 1]

“In the United States, more than 100,00 cases of smallpox were recorded in 1921.” [1]

jenner: smallpox

Edward Jenner 1749-1823
Physician: Edward Jenner, FRS was an English physician and scientist who was the pioneer of smallpox vaccine, the world’s first vaccine. He is often called “the father of immunology” Education: St George’s, University of London · University of St Andrews [2[

This needs to be repeated: “In Europe, near the end of the eighteenth century, the disease accounted for nearly 400,000 deaths each year, including five kings.  Of those surviving, one-third were blinded. The worldwide death toll was staggering and continued well into the Twentieth Century, where mortality has been estimated at 300 to 500 million. This number vastly exceeds the combined total of deaths in all world wars.” [ 1]

This post is the fifth of a series building to my first-person history of medicine and surgery in The Twentieth Century. These early, historical, posts are necessary to set the stage for comparison to the dramatic revolution occurring in the last three percent of recorded history.  The fourth was on Marie Curie and radiations in medicine. Number one, two and three are referenced there.

Mme. Curie Is Dead; Martyr to Science

“Smallpox is one of greatest scourges in human history. This disease, which starts with a distinctive rash that progresses to pus-filled blisters and can result in disfiguration, blindness, and death, first appeared in agricultural settlements in northeastern Africa around 10,000 B.C.E. Egyptian merchants spread it from there to India.”[1]        smallpox 2

“The earliest evidence of smallpox skin lesions has been found on the faces of mummies from the eighteenth and twentieth Egyptian dynasties, and in the well-preserved mummy of Pharaoh Ramses V, who died in 1157 B.C.E. The first recorded smallpox epidemic occurred in 1350 B.C.E., during the Egyptian-Hittite War.”[1]

Edward Jenner: Vaccine Pioneer

“During his training as a physician, Edward Jenner learned from nearby milkmaids that after they contracted cowpox they never got smallpox. Cowpox is a far milder disease than smallpox, yet the diseases are quite similar. In 1796, Jenner decided to test the theory that infectious material from a person with a milder similar disease could protect against a more severe disease.   smallpox virus 2

He put some pus from a cowpox pustule on small cuts made on the arm of James Phipps, an eight-year-old boy. Eight days later, Phipps developed cowpox blisters on the scratches. Eight weeks later, Jenner exposed the child to smallpox. The boy had no reaction at all, not even a mild case of smallpox. The cowpox had made him immune to smallpox. Jenner developed the first vaccine, using cow serum containing the cowpox virus. Jenner tried this new treatment on eight more children, including his own son, with the same positive result.” [1]

The World Takes  Action
In 1959, The World Health Assembly decided to organize mass immunization campaigns against smallpox. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the global smallpox eradication program in 1967. At that time there were still an estimated 10 to 15 million cases of smallpox a year resulting in two milllion deaths, millions disfigured, and another 100,000 blinded. Ten years later, after dispersal of 405 million doses of vaccine in 27 countries, the last reported naturally reported case appeared in Somali.  On October 22, 1977, a 23-year-old male, Ali Maow Maalin, developed smallpox and survived. [1]

The Public Health lesson is written with a wide brush!

Charles Clanton Rogers, MD, FACR, emeritus professor, GWU  February, 2016

References:

[1] http://www.infoplease.com/cig/dangerous-diseases-epidemics/smallpox-12000-years-terror.html#.VrdDNF4c88s.mailto

[2] Wikipedia

[3] http://therogerspost.com/2016/02/06/marie-curie-2/

3 thoughts on “Smallpox: More Deadly Than War

  1. M. L. Kappa says:

    Very interesting – and scary. Amazing how recent the eradication campaign was…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. clanton1934 says:

      Hi Martina. Thank you for stopping by. c

      Like

  2. It is so absolutely frightening even with it’s “eradication”
    “The Public Health lesson is written with a wide brush!” So true!

    Liked by 2 people

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