SMALL POX

Cosmos - - Gallery - CREDIT: AMI IMAGES / GETTY IMAGES

Pharaoh Ram­ses V had it. The 6th cen­tury Chi­nese thought you could cure it by wear­ing red. Its in­tro­duc­tion to Mex­ico by con­quis­ta­dors has­tened the demise of the Aztecs. The dev­as­tat­ing dis­ease blan­keted its vic­tims in blis­ters which, af­ter burst­ing and heal­ing, left hideous scars and some­times caused blind­ness. Nearly one in three who caught it died.

Ed­ward Jen­ner de­vel­oped the first vac­cine for small pox in 1796. Thanks to one of the most ef­fec­tive vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams in his­tory, the virus that causes small pox, Var­i­ola, has been of­fi­cially de­clared erad­i­cated. The last case of small pox was seen in 1977. Some gov­ern­ments, how­ever, keep vac­cine stock­pilea in case of a bioter­ror­ism in­ci­dent.

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