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Smallpox The Fight to Eradicate a Global Scourge

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Chapter 1
The Rise and Fall of Smallpox


The medical history of smallpox is a saga of untold human suffering, unforeseen human inventiveness, and—ultimately—unprecedented human triumph. Smallpox was a loathsome disease, spreading around the world from antiquity to modern times. It was transmitted by an invisible virus; it infected an individual person and an entire community with remarkable speed; and it proved fatal to nearly one-third of its victims. Those who somehow survived a painful two-week period of fever, skin eruptions, and internal organ damage were usually left with severe scarring and sometimes blinded. There was no cure.1