Slaying the Speckled Monster

Ramesses V was a boring Pharaoh. But the skin lesions found on his mummified face made him famous : the first known case of smallpox death in 1145 BC.

The ‘speckled monster’ killed humanity for centuries.

Inoculation was the earliest treatment. Fresh matter from a smallpox patient was grafted into another. But it lead to dangerous side effects.

In 1757, an 8 year old boy was amongst thousands inoculated in England. He once heard a cowherd say ‘I shall never have smallpox because I had cowpox’.

Cowpox, was an infectious disease which affected cowherds when they touched the udders of cows while milking. It was also widely believed that smallpox never affected cowherds.

As the boy grew to be a doctor, he concluded that cowpox not only protected against smallpox but it could be transmitted from one person to another to protect.

In May 1796, he inoculated cowpox into a healthy boy and tested him again after 10 days with a smallpox lesion. No disease developed.

And that’s how Edward Jenner finally found a safe method called vaccination.

It took another 180 years of world wide effort for WHO to finally declare the world free from smallpox in May 1977

A story of collective persistence of humanity for 10,000 years to slay a monster.

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