* disease and history smallpox








Specific Diseases: Smallpox


Figure 1.--Children wait in line for smallpox immunization shots at a health station in New York City. It looks like it may be a school. The photograph is indated, but it looks like it was taken about 1940. Credit: Library of Congress.

Smallpox is a virulent disease which ravaged mankind, one of the five deadliest diseases aflicting mankind. It is an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus. Experts estimate that it has killed some 300-500 million deaths in the 20th century alone. Transmission occurs through inhalation of the airborne virus, most commobly through droplets dispersed from the oral, nasal, or pharyngeal mucosa of an infected person. The symptoms include a blistered rash on the skin and a fever. Many Europeans who survived the disease were marked with scared faces and might even be blinded. Native Americans who had no resistance to the disease were devestated when Europeans brought the disease to the New World. It was one reason thast very small European forces were able to bring down powerful Amer-Indian empires like the Aztecs and Incas. There is no exact account, but perhaps 95 percent of the Native American population appearsto have perished. Smallpox was a major reason for it. Even among people of European ancestry it was feared. Smallpox was the most feared disease, often called 'distemper' in colonial America. Benjamin Franklin was a fervent advocated for 'inoculation' -- a precursor to modern vaccination (1730s). He used his publications in the casuse. It was till very controversial, considered by many to be the work of the devil. And there was a realtively high death rate from the procedure. The Franklin family was ireperably damaged when they lost their beloved son Franky after Deborah opposed innovulation. The Adams family was saved because Abigail dececision to risk the procedure. More importantly, Washington's who had contracted smallpox in Barbados, mafe the risky decision to innoculate the Continental Army almost certainly sabing the American Revplution. Smalkpox was endemic in England and the British had herd immunity. the Americans did not. Edward Jenner (1749-1823) developed a cure by developing an actual vaccine using cowpox (1796). James Phipps was the English boy that Jenner used as an experimental subject. The principle was to introduced dead or weakened weakened disease bodies to the individual to help the person's imune system the ability to deal with the disease. Cowpox was a less virulent form of the disease, but helped the system build a resistance to smallpox. Vaccination eventually eliminatedthedisease in the United States and Europe, but was still common in the developing world. The World Health Organization began an irrdication campign (1959). It failed but was relaunched (1967). Within a decade Asia andLstin America was smallpox free. It took a little longer in Africa. The technique of innoculation or vaccination was used to combat many other diseases. It led to a great debate when scientists began to work on a polio vaccine after that disease became a huge problem in the 20th century, crippling thouands of children annually. Dr. Albert Sabine worked on a polio vaccine using a weakened firm. Jonas Salk argued, however, that polio was to virulent for this approach.

The Disease

Smallpox is a virulent disease which ravaged mankind, one of the five deadliest diseases aflicting mankind. It is an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus. Experts estimate that it has killed some 300-500 million deaths in the 20th century alone. Transmission occurs through inhalation of the airborne virus, most commobly through droplets dispersed from the oral, nasal, or pharyngeal mucosa of an infected person. The symptoms include a blistered rash on the skin and a fever. Many Europeans who survived the disease were marked with scared faces and might even be blinded.

Native Americans

The term holocaust is today most commonly used to describe the NAZI genocide of European Jews and plans to murder much larger bnumbers of other targetted peoples. There have been other terrible holocausts in history and not all of them manmade. There have been terrible epidemics, the most familiar to Western historians is the bubonic flu epidemics (Black Death) which ravaged medieval Europe. Perhaps the most deadly disease epidemics in history occurred in the Americas in the which began with the European conquests. By a quirk of evolutionary history, Native Americans had no resistance to many of the most deadly human diseases. This was because of the Great Extinction of the Pleistocene Era, the America were left without large mammals which could be domesticated even though some like horses had originated in the Americas. In Europe and Asia, the advent of civilization brought domestication of many mammals (cats, dogs, cows, goats, horses, oxen, pigs, sheep, etc). People thus lived in close proximity to these mammals. Peasant family might actually live with livestock. Most of the most deadly diseases are caused by organisms which have mutated from animal diseases to human diseases (influenza, measles, small pox, and others). Over time Asians and Europeans developed a partial immunity to these diseases, but Native Americans without these large domesticated mammals did not. Thus when the diseases were introduced by the Europeans, Native American populations were ravaged. Such diseases were, for example, a principal reason in the Cortez's defeat of the Aztecs. Historians believe that as much as 90-95 percent of the Native American population perished. Anthropologists vary greatly on what the indigenous population was before Columbus. There are estimates as low as 10 milliion people. Low estimates were in nfact because Native American populatiins were so low when many nauthors addressed the topic. Modern estimates are much higher. We have seen estimates as high as 150 million. There is a great deal of historical evidene of disasterous epidemnics. One of great mysteries of American history is where are all victims. Archeologiusts have not found mass graves. [Brown]

Colonial America

Even among people of European ancestry it was feared. Smallpox was the most feared disease, often called 'distemper' in colonial America. Benjamin Franklin was a fervent advocated for 'inoculation' -- a precursor to modern vaccination (1730s). He used his publications in the casuse. It was till very controversial, considered by many to be the work of the devil. And there was a realtively high death rate from the procedure. The Franklin family was ireperably damaged when they lost their beloved son Franky after Deborah opposed innovulation. The Adams family was saved because Abigail dececision to risk the procedure. More importantly, Washington's who had contracted smallpox in Barbados, mafe the risky decision to innoculate the Continental Army almost certainly sabing the American Revplution. Smalkpox was endemic in England and the British had herd immunity. the Americans did not.

Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner (1749-1823) developed a cure by developing an actual vaccine using cowpox (1796). James Phipps was the English boy that Jenner used as an experimental subject. The principle was to introduced dead or weakened weakened disease bodies to the individual to help the person's imune system the ability to deal with the disease. Cowpox was a less virulent form of the disease, but helped the system build a resistance to smallpox.

Vaccination and Elimination

Vaccination eventually eliminated the disease in the United States and Europe, but was still common in the developing world. The World Health Organization began an irrdication campign (1959). It failed but was relaunched (1967). Within a decade Asia andLstin America was smallpox free. It took a little longer in Africa. The technique of innoculation or vaccination was used to combat many other diseases. It led to a great debate when scientists began to work on a polio vaccine after that disease became a huge problem in the 20th century, crippling thouands of children annually. Dr. Albert Sabine worked on a polio vaccine using a weakened firm. Jonas Salk argued, however, that polio was to virulent for this approach.

Sources

Brown, Marley. "Conquistador contagion," Archeology (May-June 2019), pp. 9-10. Brown describes a grave with 29 skeletal remains found in a Mixtic village in Oaxaca, Mexico from a 1545 epedimic which may have killed tens of millions. DNA work have found the pathogen was a bacterium which causes paratyphoid fever (Salmonella enbterica).







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Created: 9:03 PM 7/4/2020
Last updated: 9:03 PM 7/4/2020