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The History of Smallpox

            The horrors of smallpox have devastated millions of people worldwide for thousands of years. Smallpox is an infectious disease that begins with a very high fever, headache, and back pain. It eventually leads to an outbreak on the skin that leaves most of the body covered with pockmarks or pox, which are large bumps that fill with pus and then scab over. Those that survive the disease are often left sterile, disabled or blind. There are two main types: Variola major and Variola minor. Variola major is the most common form of the smallpox; it is also the most severe and the most lethal form of the disease. An estimated 30% of people die from this strain of the disease. Variola minor is a less common form of smallpox, which produces a milder form of the disease, which is fatal in less that one percent of cases. Two other very rare forms of smallpox also existed: hemorrhagic and malignant. Both types were fatal forms of the disease ("Smallpox - Conquered Killer").
             Smallpox is thought by some scholars to have emerged among settled populations in Mesopotamia as early as 5,000 BC and in the Nile River valley in 3,000 BC. Although the first proof of smallpox was found on the mummified body of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses V who died in 1156 BC, whose body has evidence of pustules, which is the scar the smallpox leaves. Historians also believe that smallpox was the cause of many epidemics (widespread occurrence of a disease in a community at a particular time) in history including the great plague of Athens in 430 BC and a plague carried to Italy by a Roman army returning from Mesopotamia around 165 AD. It has also been the cause of endemics (disease found regularly among people in a certain community) in India (1,000 BC) and China (200 AD). Smallpox first appeared in Europe and Northern Africa sporadically after the Moorish conquests and the crusades. Smallpox also spread to East and West Africa in the 12th century as people started to trade, go on pilgrimages, and immigrate ("Smallpox" Encyclopedia Britannica).

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