Smallpox and the origins of vaccination


Smallpox is a highly infectious virus with a high mortality rate. Until the 19th century, smallpox epidemics regularly swept the UK. In some areas of the world, smallpox epidemics continued well into the 20th century. Smallpox has now been eradicated by an international effort led by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The eradication of smallpox was achieved by vaccination, and the history of vaccination is closely linked to the treatment of this disease. Despite being eradicated in the natural environment, there are still stocks of smallpox kept by two governments which are the cause of ongoing debate. Today, biological weapons are considered part of the threat posed by terrorist organizations and a deliberate smallpox release is a conceivable scenario. This article will describe smallpox, its connection with vaccination and why knowledge of diseases such as smallpox can be valuable to paramedics.

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