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August 12, 1961


JAMA. 1961;177(6):446-447. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040320090010

Although the presumption is strong, there is no conclusive evidence that smallpox was prevalent in ancient times.1 Bishop Marius of Avenches is credited with the initial use of the scientific term variola in 570 A.D. Smallpox most likely was the malady noted by Bishop Gregory of Tours in 582 A.D. when he wrote of an epidemic disease that began with fever and backache followed by a pustular eruption. The attempted differentiation between smallpox and measles has been attributed to Rhazes in the 9th century and to Avicenna in the 10th century. At the time of Edward Jenner, it was estimated that every 10th person in Europe died from smallpox. In some epidemics as many as half the population died of this disease. An epidemic in Iceland early in the 18th century was fatal to nearly 40% of the population. In Europe, life-time prevalence was estimated to be as high

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