Last Natural Smallpox Case

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History on 26th October

Last Natural Smallpox Case

The 26th of October 1977 AD

It was a disease that changed history, in England complications from the disease accounting for Edward VI thus ending the Tudor male line; Elizabeth I and her sister Mary both suffered scarring from the disease; and Mary II, wife of William III , died of smallpox before she could produce an heir.
The fight-back against the disease began when the English doctor Jenner administered his first vaccine on May 14 1796 , but it was a long haul. America and much of Western Europe eradicated smallpox at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, but still in the 1950s tens of millions of cases occurred worldwide, which on occasion fed back into Europe – for example in Sweden in 1963. By the mid-1970s, however, only the Horn of Africa still had the disease present as campaigns by the World Health Organisation and others sought to finish it off.
On October 26 1977 the last natural case of the disease was diagnosed in a 23 year old cook in Somalia, Ali Maow Maalin. Thankfully he recovered.
Tragically another case occurred in Birmingham in the following year, when a medical photographer in the Birmingham University Medical School contracted the disease accidentally - and fatally.
Stocks of smallpox are still kept for research purposes in two locations, one in the USA, one in Russia.

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