Topic: Health & MedicinePublic Health

Last updated: January 17, 2020

Smallpox was said to be one of the deadliest and viral diseases known to humans caused by the variola virus. The first traces of smallpox can be traced back to 10,000 B.C spreading first through the agricultural settlements in North East Africa and later spreading to India through ancient Egyptian. Smallpox was known for its rashes of pustules covering a person’s entire body the earliest of evidence was found in Egyptian mummies. The transmission of the disease usually occurred through face to face interaction, contaminated objects and every time a person coughed or sneezed those droplets from their nose and mouth would spread to others. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “a person will go through several stages as the disease progresses,” after being infected with the disease. First, is the “incubation period” the disease is dormant, and the person will usually have no symptoms for 10-14 days. Then, “unspecific symptoms” of a common cold for 2-3 days. Furthermore, a person will start noticing the “early stages of rashes” developing in their mouth that will later spread throughout the body in 24 hours. Lastly, the rashes become pustules they are big in size and form crusts that will eventually fall off a surviving patient would be marked for life with scars in places where these pustules had formed.
Although, the smallpox virus has been eradicated the disease still today is considered a threat to public health officials because it is a deadly disease. The precautions are set high to make sure smallpox doesn’t come in contact here in the United States. Today only, “small quantities of smallpox virus officially still exist in two research laboratories in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Russia” (NIAID). Public health officials worry that smallpox may still exist outside of these two laboratories and can be accidentally released as a bioterrorism attack. Smallpox took the lives of millions of people and the effects of it being released could lead to devasting consequences which is why public health officials take early precautions and respond to any emergency that can be considered smallpox. Currently, there has been no incidence cases related to smallpox reported since the global immunizing campaign by the World Health Organization in 1980.

An important figure in public health that helped contribute and worked to address the disease was Edward Jenner he was an English country physician due to his strong interest in science and nature it led him to carry out the first studies of the immunity to smallpox. Edward Jenner studied the relevance to cowpox and smallpox, he mentions,” For many years, he had heard the tales that dairymaids were protected from smallpox naturally after having suffered from cowpox.” (Riedel). From this Jenner began experimenting he took material from dairymaid who had cowpox and inserted it into an eight-year-old boy who caught cowpox but did not catch smallpox. He then experimented once again on the boy but this time with fresh smallpox no disease developed, and he concluded that the vaccination helped provide immunity to smallpox without the risks of getting variolation. Although, the vaccine doesn’t cure smallpox it still helps with preventing it. His work was significant because smallpox was one of the words most feared and deadly diseases that affected the lives of many and he contributed a great amount of research and saved the lives of many individuals by creating the first smallpox vaccination which also led to many other discoveries by him.

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