Would your family survive an outbreak of smallpox? In the 1950s, there was a reported 50 million cases worldwide each year. Today, smallpox has been “eradicated,” but that doesn’t mean that we are safe from infection.
The first smallpox vaccination was developed in 1796, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the World Health Organization (WHO) coordinated a global effort to eradicate the disease. Spurred by the death of over two million infected individuals in 1968, WHO began to catalog and contain outbreaks of smallpox. By 1979, they declared smallpox eliminated once and for all.
However, that statement isn’t altogether true. In various laboratories around the world, smallpox lives on. After September 11, 2001, the U.K. and U.S. began to stockpile smallpox vaccines in preparation for a bioterrorist attack. In the historical photos below, you’ll see just how devastating that kind of attack would be.
Brace yourself. The photos of these smallpox victims are jarring.
Before the eradication of smallpox in 1979, there were anywhere from 20 to 50 million reported cases each year.
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