Smallpox has left its mark throughout history. Records of deadly epidemics can be found across cultures, as early as the fourth century A.D., and it was this disease in particular that decimated the Native-American population. Periodic epidemics occurred in the colonies, and it was well-known by the colonists that once someone survived smallpox, they would not get it again. Still, little was known about its cause or how it spread. Scientists have now determined that smallpox is caused by the Variola virus. The virus is highly contagious and able to spread through airborne droplets. It was often passed through the bedding and clothes of an infected individual. Smallpox symptoms begin with a high fever, headache, muscle pain, and vomiting. The most characteristic symptom of smallpox is a rash of pus filled bumps across the entire body accompanied by a horrible stench. In severe cases, blood poisoning from bacteria or internal bleeding can cause death even before appearance of the rash. Those who survived were left with severe scarring, disfiguration, and occasionally, blindness. Thanks to vaccination, Smallpox was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization in 1979, but the records of its deadly impact will always be a part of history.
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