Smallpox: A Historical Overview of the Eradicated Disease…Check This Out

Smallpox: A Historical Overview of the Eradicated Disease. Smallpox is one of the most significant diseases in human history, known for causing severe illness and death throughout the centuries. Its impact was so profound that it shaped societies and influenced global events. In this article, we delve into the history of smallpox, its symptoms, and the eventual eradication of the disease.

A Brief History of Smallpox

Smallpox: A Historical Overview

Smallpox has a long history, with evidence of the disease dating back thousands of years. It is believed to have emerged in Africa around 10,000 BC, with the earliest known cases found in ancient Egypt. From there, the disease spread to India and China, and eventually to Europe and the Americas through trade and colonization.

Symptoms and Transmission

Smallpox: A Historical Overview

Smallpox is caused by the variola virus and is highly contagious. The symptoms include high fever, fatigue, and a characteristic rash that progresses to fluid-filled pustules. The disease is transmitted through close contact with infected individuals or contaminated objects. Once infected, the mortality rate was high, with survivors often left with severe scarring and, in some cases, blindness.

The Development of Vaccination

Smallpox: A Historical Overview

The fight against smallpox began in earnest with the development of the first vaccine. In 1796, Edward Jenner, an English physician, discovered that exposure to cowpox (a less severe disease) could protect against smallpox. Jenner’s breakthrough led to widespread vaccination programs, significantly reducing the spread and severity of the disease.

Global Eradication Efforts

In 1959, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched an ambitious campaign to eradicate smallpox worldwide. The campaign involved mass vaccination efforts and intense surveillance to identify and contain outbreaks. Through these efforts, smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, making it the first disease to be eliminated globally.

The Legacy of Smallpox

Smallpox leaves behind a legacy of human suffering but also of triumph. Its eradication marked a significant milestone in public health and demonstrated the power of coordinated global action. The success of the smallpox eradication campaign serves as an inspiration for future efforts to control and eliminate other infectious diseases.


While smallpox is no longer a threat, it remains a significant part of our history. Its eradication is a testament to the incredible advancements in medical science and public health. Today, the focus remains on preventing its reemergence and using the lessons learned from the smallpox campaign to combat other infectious diseases.