Panic, confusion, illness, and quarantines have haunted humanity for thousands of years as communities grappled with disease. Among the deadliest scourges humanity faced was perhaps smallpox, which left 300 million in its centuries of existence. Though once dreaded, it has since been wiped from the face of the Earth, never to return. Its eradication showed how determination, experimentation, and education could overcome any health crisis.
The dreaded smallpox virus apparently emerged nearly 4,000 years ago, apparently mutating from a similar virus found in some African gerbils and other rodents. Mild outbreaks occurred among the Egyptian people around 2000 BC, even infecting the pharaohs as the virus was found in their mummified remains. The disease caused high fevers, outbreaks of horrible blisters and postules and would cause death, blindness, or scarring. From what microbiologists can determine by studying its genetic structure, Egyptian traders around 1500 BC unknowingly brought the virus along the trade routes of South Asia into India. The first known outbreak occurred in India in 1500 BC. From India, it spread to China, causing an epidemic in 1142 BC.
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