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Remembered Today:

Smallpox - can you catch it twice?


John_Hartley

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Guy I'm interested in certainly died of smallpox in 1918. But the wording of newspaper reports suggests he caught it before and recovered. I had it mind that this was one of those illnesses that you couldnt get a second time. Anyone know for sure?

John

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Smallpox is a viral disease manifesting as Variola Major and Variola Minor; however, other members of the pox virus family can cause a picture similar to Variola minor. The vaccine used for smallpox immunization is derived from cowpox, it causes a minor flu-like illness with localized (one hopes) infection at the inoculation site left shoulder.

Until we have been able to perform actual serum antibody levels, a diagnosis of viral syndrome with rash was made upon the likely appearance of the skin lesions. Secondary syphilis can cause localized pox closely resembling pox virus lesions. Mid-1800s, trying to vaccinate folks to prevent smallpox outbreaks, pox scabs were harvested from people convalescing from "the pox". Unfortunately, some people ended up being inoculated with active syphilis instead of cowpox.

So, I'd wager the gentleman in question contracted two illnesses manifesting small vesicles ... closely related enough to appear similar, but genetically different enough so immunity acquired after one illness was not thoroughly protective from the new bug.

Doc D

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Doc

Thanks. That'll do for me as an explanation.

Unlucky chap. Get's it first time and recovers in India. Returns to Mesopotamia - jumping for joy. Not only has he recovered but he's now got a nice cushy job in supplies at GHQ (Basra?). Get's it again and he's dead.

Interesting your mention of flu-like symptoms. His officer wrote to the family saying he'd been in hospital with flu but had come out fit and well and it'd been a surprise that he'd contacted smallpox. That said, it was 1918, so he might well have had flu first.

John

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As a matter of some ( little really ) interest, I had a smallpox innoculation when I was a lad in the seventies, and although the flu like symptoms after the jab are minor compared to Smallpox itself. it certainly didn't feel very minor at the time !!!

As for getting the disease twice, I was under the impression that surviving it once gave you immunity for life.

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GTS,

I'll "Amen" your recollection about not feeling "minor" at the time. I've received the inoculation 5 times over my lifetime: 1955-56 as infant, 1969-70 booster, 1983 after I entered active Naval service ... and twice 2003 as I sailed towards Iraq. If one didn't get a "good take" with administration, a repeat attempt was required. For 2-3days, I felt like a truck had knocked me down: sweats, chills, aching in every joint ... enough energy to get to the loo. :P [usually I can get there and back without needing too long a nap].

DocD

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  • 1 month later...

I believe the last person to die from smallpox was a female laboratory worker in the 1970s. Can anyone confirm?

RObbie

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  • 15 years later...
Mike Throssell

"Smallpox has existed for at least 3,000 years and was one of the world’s most feared diseases until it was eradicated by a collaborative global vaccination programme led by the World Health Organization. The last known natural case was in Somalia in 1977. Since then, the only known cases were caused by a laboratory accident in 1978 in Birmingham, England, which killed one person and caused a limited outbreak. Smallpox was officially declared eradicated in 1979."

 

World Health Organisation downloaded 25 - 04 - 2020

 

The woman who died was Janet Parker of Kings Norton.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1978_smallpox_outbreak_in_the_United_Kingdom

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Ron Clifton

I always cite this case as the reply to those animal rights activists who claim that no animal should be hunted down to extinction, especially by a coordinated effort by an international organisation.

 

Ron

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