Thursday, September 5, 2013

Smallpox in history

DNA analysis suggests that it became dangerous to humans at least 16,000 years ago, and probably much sooner.

The first known smallpox epidemic was recorded in 1350 BC. During the Egyptian-Hittite war that year Egyptian prisoners unwittingly spread smallpox to the Hittites.

Even the Hittites King Suppiluliumus I and his heir fell victim to the virus.

Pharaoh Ramses V of Egypt died in 1157 BC, presumably from this disease; modern analysis of his mummy has revealed the distinguishing pustular eruptions.

It was said that smallpox reached India about 1000 BC. In China, doctors describe smallpox like plaque in 1122 BC. Smallpox reached Europe in the 5th century and was a leading cause of death in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Persian physicians described smallpox in a medical paper in 910 AD.

The disease came to the Americans with European explorers, missionaries and traders, who reported death rates exceeding 50 percent and as high as 90 percent among some indigenous people.

It wasn’t until the 1500s that European doctors began to refer to the disease as ‘the small pox’. The English word smallpox was coined in the sixteenth century, to distinguish between this disease and syphilis. In England in the early 1500s, syphilis was often referred to as the ‘great pox’.

The disease has been eradicated. It is no longer in nature due to aggressive vaccinations in the 1960s and 1970s.
Smallpox in history

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