The Red Plague Mystery
Updated: Jul 15
A terrible virus had been causing havoc on Earth for 3,000 years. This virus's illness was so severe and hazardous that stated a person infected had a 30% chance of dying. One in every three people infected died because of it. Those who survived were left with lifelong scars on their bodies. Their faces would be disfigured for life. There were huge spots on the face. Many people were permanently blinded.
When the disease showed up in Japan in 1735, it wiped out one-third of Japan's population. In the 1500s, European colonists brought this disease to Mexico and America. 90% of the Native Tribal population passed out. Every seventh child born in Russia in the 18th century, this disease took his life. This swept out many empires and civilizations from history. It is estimated that this epidemic took the lives of 5 million people a year. It resulted in 500 million deaths over a century. Half a billion people were killed.
The recent pandemic of Covid-19, when compared to this disease, it appears to be a joke. Throughout history, it has been given numerous names. Pox, the Speckled Monster, and the Red Plague. It was known as Mata Lagna in India. [Being cursed by the Goddess]. The most frequent name for this, however, was Smallpox.
Surprisingly, in the 1700s, When this disease struck havoc on the entire globe, In England, there was a quaint village. where the farmers appeared to be immune to the sickness. This was a bit of a mystery. It appeared as if the farmers who lived there possessed superhuman abilities to shield them from the terrible virus.
Smallpox first appeared in human populations many thousands of years ago. As a contagious virus, it spreads quickly. Smallpox is the most devastating and deadly illness in human history. Smallpox was one of the deadliest diseases before vaccinations. Smallpox vaccination was one of the factors responsible for the eradication of smallpox from huge parts of the world. It truly is a monster.
Smallpox was a viral disease spread by the Variola virus. It was an instance of the Orthopox virus. Monkeypox and Cowpox viruses have been included in the Orthopox category. Smallpox was a highly contagious disease that spread quickly. The respiratory droplets could spread with the smallest of sneezes or coughs. It could be spread by rashes on the skin or through saliva. Even through contaminated surfaces by using an infected person's towels, bedsheets, or clothing.
Once infected, the early symptoms were similar to the common cold and cough, but afterward, rashes appeared over the body, which eventually develop into boils. These boils then covered the person's face and body. It's difficult to put into words how disgusting it is. The unfortunate person died 8-16 days after getting sick and suffering headaches, vomiting, rashes, and fever.
As I previously stated, the death rate was 30%. When compared to Covid-19, the death rate for Covid-19 is less than 1%. The worst thing was that it infected children far more frequently. The rate of death among children was even higher.
Where did the disease originate?
Nobody is aware of this. However, it is believed that in approximately 10,000 BC, when people first turned to agriculture, the first farming villages were observed in Africa, and humans began the domestication of cattle and poultry, humans came into continuous contact with these animals. Normally, these orthopox viruses are found in mammals. As a result, it is assumed that it originated there. Some scientists believe it may have originated from rodents as well. However, the early signs of this illness were discovered in 1156 BC. When examining an ancient Egyptian mummy, was embalmed and laid to rest, which had the same scarring on the face as the outcome of smallpox.
Since then, no cure for this fatal disease has been discovered. Smallpox is still impossible to cure in modern medicine. People, however, learned the concept of immunity. People who survived this disease did not become infected with it again. As a result, numerous doctors concluded that one strategy to protect against this disease would be to infect the individual with a little dosage of the virus before the virus could infect them. It could make them sick, but it won't kill them, and they won't have to go through with it afterward. This is known as Inoculation. It is believed to have originated somewhere in India or China.
Around the 18th century, a group of Brahmins known as Tikadaar performed the inoculation. They would remove scabs from plagued people's skin, which were hardened scar tissue caused by the disease. They would then pierce a healthy person's hand with an iron needle and apply the diseased scabs to the pierced area. Inoculation was first reported in China in the 11th century, when Buddhist monks living in the mountainous regions of Tibet gathered these scabs, ground them into powder, and blew this powder into the nose of healthy people. These practices migrated from India and China to the Ottoman Empire and then ultimately to Europe.
However, there was a major issue with this inoculation method. What guarantee did there exist that the minimal dose of virus used to infect people would not kill them? There weren't any. This is why 1%-2% of people died as a result of inoculation. They were infected with smallpox and ended up in pain. However, a death rate of 1%-2% was significantly lower than a death rate of 30%. Many people preferred to be inoculated. The second issue was that those who had been inoculated were left with these permanent scars. The third issue was that it was spreadable. People who had been inoculated were spreading the virus all over the world.
A mysterious event occurred in the village of Gloucestershire in 18th-century England. The farmers, cattle builders, and milkmaids who worked there were never infected with smallpox. Doctor Edward Jenner wanted to investigate this in 1795. When he spoke with the agricultural workers, they told him that the people who caught Cowpox did not catch smallpox. Cowpox was another disease. However, it is not as fatal as smallpox. Jenner wondered if contracting cowpox was a form of smallpox prevention. If this is the case, it could be an easy way to avoid smallpox. There was only one way to find out. By conducting experiments and gathering evidence.
Sarah, a woman suffering from Cowpox, traveled to Dr. Edward Jenner for treatment in May 1796. Dr. Jenner extracted and kept the pus from her boils. This was his chance to put his theory to the test. But on whom might he put it to the test? The host had to be someone. Jenner's gardener had an 8-year-old son named James, and Jenner summoned him, pierced his hand, and infected him with Cowpox on purpose. The infant developed a fever as a result of Cowpox a few days later. But he was able to recover. Six weeks later, Dr. Jenner extracted smallpox scars and infected the kid with smallpox. Today, such experiments on minors are not only morally unacceptable but also illegal. But things were different back then. Back then, there were no such morals or laws. Infecting a child with smallpox meant he had a good probability of dying. But, happily, this did not occur. Smallpox immunity had developed in the child. This experiment demonstrated not only that cowpox might prevent smallpox, but also that we could deliberately spread cowpox from human to human.
This meant that Dr. Jenner had created the world's first vaccination. The first successful vaccine in the world. And that child received the world's first vaccine. Dr. Jenner actually invented the term vaccination. It is derived from the Latin word vacca, which means "cow." The term vaccination was coined from this because cowpox protected the little one. Obviously, the term vaccination now has a broad definition. We don't just use it for cowpox vaccines; we use it for any form of vaccine. Vaccination was far less dangerous than inoculation. The 1%-2% chance of dying from inoculation was reduced even lower. The risks of dying from cowpox were almost non-existent. We now have a good understanding of how this process works.
Cowpox and Smallpox were both triggered by viruses from the Orthopox family. When our immune system gets infected with Cowpox, our immune system is able to detect when a similar virus hits. Smallpox, for example. The antibodies generated during the prior infection can then be utilized against smallpox, and we will survive.
Another Orthopox virus, Monkeypox, has recently spread over the world; you've probably heard of it. It belongs to the same family as Smallpox, and happily, according to the World Health Organisation, it is far less severe, less contagious, and has a death rate of 3%-6%. According to some research, the smallpox vaccine is also 85% effective against monkeypox. But there's no denying that anytime a new disease emerges, it has a big negative impact on our lives.
You'd think that when Dr. Jenner announced his vaccination discovery to the globe, everyone honored him for his exceptional work. This has the potential to save millions of lives. However, the actual reaction was the opposite. Dr. Jenner had to deal with a lot of responses, and he was mostly mocked. His study was rejected when he presented his results to the Royal Society of London. The Royal Society's President advised Dr. Jenner to give up his studies. But Dr. Jenner stayed strong. He conducted additional research and obtained additional data. Then he released his book. Enquiry Into The Causes And Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae. Many doctors and scientists were convinced over time, but convincing the public was a tremendous undertaking.
Many religious institutions are in opposition to vaccinations. They believed that the vaccinations were counter to God's will. That we should not participate since it is inappropriate. Some people were horrified that our bodies would be polluted with animal waste. Cowpox would be injected. This disturbed them. Many people in Europe were afraid that by taking this vaccine, they could slowly turn into cows. Many painters and artists mocked this by portraying bovine characteristics coming from human bodies. Vaccination was highly opposed by inoculators because it interfered with their business. As governments became aware of the vaccinations' efficacy, they began mandating them.
In 1979, the World Health Organisation claimed that this disease had been wiped out from the entire world. Even then, no cases of smallpox have been detected around the world. If you were born after 1980, you are not required to get this smallpox vaccine because the virus has been eradicated from the world. Can you imagine that Dr. Jenner's tiny discovery transformed the world for the better? It is believed that because this vaccination exists and this illness has been eradicated, 5 million lives are saved each year. Surprisingly, we still do not know the cure for this disease, nor do we need to look for one. We eradicated it after preventing it through vaccinations.
There are only two samples of this virus in the world. They are kept in two highly secure laboratories. A US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention lab and a Russian State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology facility. There, the virus samples are kept safe. They have been saved for future investigation. There is still concern that this virus could be genetically engineered. It is possible that leaking it from the laboratory will result in another tragic outbreak.