EARLIEST CASES OF SMALLPOX
Smallpox was one of the deadliest diseases the humankind has known. It is estimated to have killed 300-500 million people in the 20th century alone.
A global vaccination program led to the eradication of the disease in 1980, and the virus is now stored in only two laboratories in the world. However, despite the mark it left, the origins of Smallpox remain murky. Recently, researchers have found the world’s earliest confirmed case of smallpox, revealing that the disease was widespread across northern Europe during the Viking age. Before this, the earliest case of smallpox confirmed by genetic data was of a 17th-century hold in Lithuania.
The researchers detected the variola virus (the virus causing the infectious disease) in the teeth and bones of 11 men and women from Denmark and Russia, dating from about 600 to 1050. While these 11 individuals were infected with the virus when they died, it is not clear if this is what caused their deaths. “I think it is fair to assume the Vikings have been the superspreaders,” said Eske Willerslev, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Cambridge, who led the research. Most importantly, these findings could shed light on the evolution of variola virus and even provide clues on how other pox diseases in animals could mutate and potentially pose a risk to humans.
Clancy's comment: And here we are centuries later, and still suffering from awful diseases. Stay safe!