Now for some truth in advertising. The anti-vaccine hysteria of recent years kills people. In particular, delaying or skipping vaccinations will kill infants. Smallpox was the first disease to be eliminated by vaccination. It caused death, sometimes blindness, and usually permanent scarring. Its mortality rate was roughly 30%. Now the only danger of its return is if someone uses it in biological warfare. If it hadn’t been exterminated by a concerted World Health Organization campaign, before the anti-vaxxers started spreading unfounded rumors, we might still have this to contend with.
I took this straight from the Malady of the Month archive:
Smallpox (variola) is a contagious, disfiguring and sometimes deadly disease caused by the variola virus. It’s believed to have first appeared in northeastern Africa or the Indus Valley of south-central Asia nearly 12,000 years ago. Since then, few other illnesses have had such a profound effect on human health and history. There is evidence that a major smallpox epidemic occurred toward the end of the 18th Egyptian dynasty. Studies of the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses V (d. 1157 BC) indicate that he likely died of smallpox infection. From ancient Egypt, it appears that traders spread the disease to India. Smallpox was brought to the Americas with the arrival of Spanish colonists in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Many historians argue that smallpox infection killed more Aztec and Inca people than the Spanish Conquistadors did. A smallpox epidemic in 1837-38 killed an estimated 20,000 Native Americans…
We were on the verge of wiping out measles and polio, too, but they are spreading again. I’ll cover them in future posts.