Small Pox Essay, Research Paper
Smallpox has been one of the most dangerous and deadly curses? ever placed on humankind. Even illnesses as terrible as the plague, cholera, and yellow fever have not had such a universal effect. Smallpox is a parasitic virus (a virus destructive to the host) called variola. It?s considered to be a ?crowd disease?, spreading only through people and requiring a large densely populated area to survive. If the virus is cut off from new host bodies it dies out.
Smallpox is spread by what is called ?droplet infection.? ?Droplets? refers to body fluid that escapes into the open air such as moisture does when you sneeze. The smallpox virus also remains active on a human corpse for up to three weeks and can be passed through the dead host to the living host that way and also through items such as blankets and clothing, which remain infected for up to one year.
Patients affected with smallpox will generally begin to show symptoms 9-12 days after exposure. These symptoms begin with depression, fever, rigors, vomiting, headache, and backache. In several cases patients have become disoriented and/or delirious. In other cases a distinct rash will begin to form on face, hands and legs in this phase. All others with begin to notice the rash within a few days. Following the outbreak of the rash on the face, it begins to spread to the chest. Cuts that have formed on face and body begin to turn into blisters and eventually into scabs during the healing process. The virus may attack the eyes, lungs, throat, heart and/or liver and lead to death.
The first recorded smallpox outbreak occurred in 1350 BC during the Egyptian-Hittite war. The illness was passed from Egyptian prisoners to the Hittite population affecting both soldiers and civilians. Although it wasn?t until the late 1600?s that people in Europe and Asia accidentally discovered that those infected with smallpox through a scratch on the skin, suffered from a less severe form of the disease than those who contracted it through the respiratory tract. In the early 1700?s doctors began to store samples of smallpox pus and scabs in jars. If an outbreak occurred the doctor would make a small cut in a person?s arm and smeared the pus into the wound. This process of intentionally infecting a person with the smallpox virus in order to make them immune to the disease in the future was called inoculation. The danger of this treatment was that the person usually caught the full disease with fatal results rather than a mild case of it.
In 1796 Edward Jenner performed an experiment that controlled the wide spreading disease of smallpox and began a change in fighting disease by establishing a science known as immunization. Over many years Jenner had noticed that people who had once been infected with cowpox, a disease infecting the teats of cows and later the hands of the milkers, were unaffected by the smallpox while those who hadn?t were dying off rapidly. He had heard that people who caught cowpox never caught small pox. He knew that if this were true he could save millions of lives. What Jenner did, in 1976, to test this theory was to infect one of his patients, an 8-year-old boy by the name of James Phipps.
He made two cuts in the boys arm and worked liquid from the blisters of a woman already infected with the disease into the cuts made on the boys arm. The boy caught cowpox, and though he suffered from a slight fever, he recovered within several days. Two months later, Jenner repeated this experiment only instead of infecting James with the cowpox disease he infected him with the liquid from the blisters of someone who had smallpox. The boy did not get smallpox. Jenner repeated the experiment again two years later and once again it was a success. ?Vaccination? was the word that Jenner invented for his treatment (from the Latin word vacca, a cow) and was later adopted by Louis Pasteur for immunization of any disease.
Smallpox was a virus that affected everyone, not just those infected but those who saw the impact it that had on the nation also.
Smallpox was always present, filling the churchyard with corpses,
tormenting with constant fear all whom it had not yet stricken, leaving on
those whose lives it spared the hideous traces of it?s power, turning the
babe into a changeling at which the mother shuddered, and making the
eyes and cheeks of the betrothed maiden objects of horror to their lovers. (1)
Smallpox killed off three empires, generation after generation of helpless families and thousands and thousands of infants and children. It was a disease like no other. It changed the lives of society, and it changed, as well as advanced, the knowledge and practice of medicine for years to come.