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The Bizarre Origins of the World's First VACCINE FOR SMALLPOX

 WHAT IS SMALLPOX

For many centuries, smallpox devastated mankind. It was a serious infectious disease caused by the variola virus and was highly contagious. About 3 out of 10 people with the disease died and those who survived were left with permanent scars especially over their faces. Some were left blind.

The Bizarre Origins of the World's First VACCINE FOR  SMALLPOX

SMALLPOX RAVAGED THE WORLD

With the rise in global trade and the spread of empires, smallpox ravaged communities around the world. In the early 18th Century. the disease is said to have killed around 4,00,000 people every year in Europe alone.

2400000 KILLED EVERY YEAR

VARIOLATION AND THE EARLY ATTEMPTS OF TREATMENT

Bizarre treatments including placing patients in hot or cold rooms or giving "12 bottles of beer" every 24 hours were practiced in hopes to cure the disease.


However one practice showed genuine results called inoculation or variolation. It involved taking the pus from someone suffering with smallpox and scratching it into the skin of a healthy individual


DEFEATING SMALLPOX TO DEVELOPING ITS VACCINE 

In 1757, a young boy was inoculated with smallpox in England. The procedure was effective, as the boy became immune to the disease. His name was Edward Jenner.

Jenner's interest in curing smallpox is thought to be influenced by his childhood experience.


JENNER'S FIRST EXPERIMENT WITH SMALLPOX

In 1796, Dr. Jenner, after gathering some circumstantial evidence from farmers and milkmaids, decided to try a potentially fatal experiment on a child.


He took some pus from cowpox lesions on the hands of a young milkmaid and scratched it into the skin of an eight-year old boy.


RESULT OF THE CHILLING EXPERIMENT:

A BREAKTHROUGH

The boy recovered after a mild illness and Jenner inoculated him with matter from a smallpox blister. He did not develop smallpox, nor did any of the people he came into close contact with.

Although the experiment worked, by today's standards it seems ethically problematic.


WORLD'S FIRST VACCINE IS BORN

Over the years, Edward Jenner collected evidence from patients infected or inoculated with the cowpox virus, to support his theory that immunity to cowpox provided protection against smallpox.

Hence, the earliest vaccination - the origin of the term coming from the Latin for cow ("vacca") was born.

ERADICATION OF SMALLPOX

Despite errors and controversies the use of vaccination spread rapidly. By the year 1800, it reached most European countries and soon across the world.


In 1967, the WHO led a global campaign to eradicate smallpox worldwide


In May, 1980, the World Health Assembly announced that the world was free of smallpox and recommended that all countries cease vaccination.

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