History and Causes of Smallpox Essay

History and Causes of Smallpox Essay

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Smallpox is a viral disease that causes pus-filled boils on the dermis. It looks similar to chickenpox, but has certain characteristic differences. Unlike chickenpox, smallpox is lethal in 30% of the cases and leaves the victim with disfiguring scars and/or blindness. Smallpox has now been eradicated through aggressive vaccination. The last case was reported in Somalia in the late 1970’s. After 2 years of worldwide surveillance, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that the disease had been eradicated.
Causative agent
Smallpox is caused by the Variola virus, which belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus. The members of this genus share similar genetic makeup and characteristics. Viruses belonging to this family are large and measure nearly 220-450 nm x 150-260 nm in size. DNA is the genetic material that encodes for 200 proteins, approximately, using its 200,000 base pairs. The DNA is encapsulated inside a capsid, which in turn is enveloped by membrane proteins. Two forms of the virus cause smallpox. Variola major is the most common causative agent. Variola minor induced smallpox is rare and is not severe even for pregnant women and the fetus (Jahrling, 216).

History of smallpox
Smallpox is thought to have made its appearance sometime around 10,000 BC in Africa and is thought to have spread to India via Egyptian merchants. Smallpox killed nearly 30% and blinded 1/3rd of the infected population. Throughout the history, it became apparent that those who survived the disease acquired lifelong immunity. As the fear of the disease grew, people resorted to the practice of variolation, which was the act of subcutaneous inoculation of the contents of a smallpox pustule into a non-infected person. However, variola...

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...States of America and the other in Russia. If these vials were to be stolen, one could expect a very difficult battle. Some countries such as Switzerland have stored numerous vials of the smallpox vaccine to immunize if such a circumstance were to arrive (Henderson, 165).

Works Cited

Fenner, F., et al. "Smallpox and its eradication." Geneva: WHO (1987).
Henderson, D. A. "Smallpox virus destruction and the implications of a new vaccine." Biosecurity and bioterrorism: biodefense strategy, practice, and science 9.2 (2011): 163-168.
Jahrling, Peter B., et al. "Smallpox and related orthopoxviruses." Medical aspects of biological warfare. TMM Publications, Office of The Surgeon General, Washington, DC (2007): 215-240.
Riedel, Stefan. "Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination." Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center) 18.1 (2005): 21.

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