Etiology and Epidemiology

Within the range of recorded history, as far as we know, the source of smallpox was always a human being with the infection. There was no animal reservoir. The virus could survive in scabs for consider able periods, and laundry workers on occasion contracted the disease from clothing and bedding of smallpox patients, but most transmissions were airborne and occurred over distances of no more than a few meters. In the second to the very last recorded transmission - in Birmingham, England in 1978 -the virus must have drifted from a laboratory on one floor of a building through an air duct to an unimmu-nized person on the floor above. Quarantine was effective against this malady, as long as it was applied early (even before the appearance of symptoms) and strictly enforced.

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