Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What was small pox and how did it affect people like Anne Bradstreet?

What was small pox and how did it affect people like Anne Bradstreet?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdIjKIMtoac Photos of smallpox patients
http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-diseases/smallpox-article/   National Geographic

               Smallpox, one of the most deadly diseases in the world, was very common in the 18th to 20th century.  The disease traces its roots from long ago, “the first case found” in the Egyptian period.  Smallpox has been mentioned in stories of Indians as well as several in the bible.  It has been compared to the Bubonic plague, and had a very high mortality rate during the time of "thirty percent".  Many people came into contact with the disease during this time.  Smallpox could be transferred from person to person very easily.  It was proved to be spread by “saliva, bed sheets, and articles of clothing”. It could spread within “six feet” of contact with an infected person.  As long as the infected person had the painful rash, he or she was considered contagious and was forced to stay in bed to rest.  Many important historical figures came down with the diseases such as the Egyptian, Ramses V, a few monarchs, and our very own Anne Bradstreet.

The symptoms of smallpox were very distinct.  The victim would develop large bumps that could appear anywhere on the skin.  The most common areas were the face and trunk of the body.  These bumps would then blister, and eventually scab over and fall off.  Smallpox could do permanent damage to the face such as severe scarring and cause mutations.  The symptoms would generally occur within “twelve to fourteen days” after the person had come into contact.  Other symptoms of the disease included “a fever above 101 degrees F, headache, vomiting, backaches, diarrhea and vomiting”.  People who came down with the smallpox would also face “respiratory” problems as well.

Smallpox could take shape into two common forms, “Variola major and Variola minor”.  Variola major, as you can tell from the word “major”, was the most devastating.  Variola minor often was curable and eventually went away.  Variola minor only killed about “one percent” of the infected people.  Two other, rarer types of the disease were “hemorrhagic and malignant” which almost always resulted in death.  If I were to take a guess, it would be that Anne Bradstreet developed the Variola minor form since she lived. 

Eventually, the “World Health Organization” created a vaccine that would end the smallpox disease.  Because of this breakthrough in the treatment and prevention of smallpox, the last case ended in the 1977.  Despite the extinction of this disease, it has been rumored that in some laboratory, a small vial of it is kept.  The American government, as well as the governments in other countries, is fearful that it could be used as a “weapon” and could come back to haunt us in the future.  However, the chance is coming in contact is extremely low and should not be feared.  The chance of dying in a car wreck, getting attacked by a shark, dying in a fire, or being in a plane crash are on the optimistic side much higher.

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