Angel of Death: The Story of Smallpox by Gareth Williams

By Gareth Williams

The tale of the increase and fall of smallpox, some of the most savage killers within the heritage of mankind, and the one illness ever to be effectively exterminated (30 years in the past subsequent yr) through a public future health crusade. Proceeds from the sale of this ebook will to to help the Edward Jenner Museum in Berkeley, united kingdom (visit

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Then think big: the deep, open pits of smallpox, with up to 250 pocks on the face in ‘moderate’ involvement and 500 in a confluent case. 38 As with severe burns, the skin runs out of ideas for repairing itself once it has resorted to patching up damage with fibrous tissue; the pockmarks and scarring of smallpox are lifelong. Some unlucky cases were also left with permanent damage to the eyes. 6 Scarring and blindness due to smallpox, in a young woman in Zaire, 1965. Reproduced by kind permission of the Edward Jenner Museum, Berkeley, Gloucestershire.

However, von Pettenkofer omitted to mention that he had already had cholera, which evidently provided enough immunity to prevent Koch’s brew from killing him. His victory was short-lived. More bacteria fell victim to Pasteur, Koch and their allies and the realisation that miasma theory was doomed finally caught up with von Pettenkofer in early February 1901. He locked himself away, surrounded by all the works that had made him famous, and shot himself in the head. 15 They all turned out to be only opportunistic fellow-travellers that had taken up the invitation to grow in ravaged skin.

This was repeated as necessary, sometimes until the patient fainted or could not stand. For the smallpox sufferer, the first prodromal symptoms of fever, headache and vomiting would summon the doctor with his lancet and/or jar of hungry leeches. Once a bad eruption had blown up, leeches were harder to use because there was so little normal skin for them to get their teeth into. 21 Bleeding was bizarre, pointless and potentially dangerous but trusted by patients and doctors alike. 2 Medicinal leech, used for therapeutic bleeding and the treatment of smallpox up to the end of the nineteenth century.

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