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12/28/2003 Entry: "The things we worry about: Smallpox!"

"But many scientists find the scenario too extreme. What is most contentious is the infection rate. Dark Winter assumes that each infected person will transmit the virus to 10 others and even to descendants for several generations. This is not, however, what epidemiologists have observed in the field. Rarely was smallpox transmitted to more than two or three people, if at all, says J. Michael Lane, former director of the smallpox eradication program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most were infected by prolonged exposure. What is more, the virus is not transmissible until physical symptoms appear. By that time, Lane states, the person usually feels 'so awful' that they are bedridden. And even though the virus may not behave the same way today, Dark Winter assumes that the sick are not effectively isolated, which is 'totally unrealistic,' he adds."
Uncertain Threat. Does smallpox really spread that easily?, by Gunjan Sinha, Scientific American, December 15, 2003

"Librarian Susanne Caro was leafing through an 1888 book on Civil War medicine when she spied a small, yellowed envelope tucked between the pages. Freeing it, she read the inscription 'scabs from vaccination of W.B. Yarrington's children' in the corner, with the signature 'Dr. W.D. Kelly,' the book's author."
Envelope tucked inside book may yield 1800s smallpox sample, by Elizabeth Williamson, Washington Post, December 27, 2003

Ew.

 

 

 

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