Ten things you never knew about…smallpox

1. The last smallpox fatality was Janet Parker, a medical photographer who contracted the disease at the University of Birmingham Medical School.

2. After her death, all known stocks of smallpox virus were destroyed or transferred to World Health Organisation laboratories.

3. Evidence from Egyptian mummies shows that smallpox was around in the third century BC.

4. In Europe in the 18th century, some 400,000 people died of smallpox every year.

5. The disease was called smallpox in the 15th century to distinguish it from The Great Pox which was the name given to syphilis. 

6. Edward Jenner was the first to show, in 1798, that vaccination could prevent smallpox.

7. Worldwide, there were still about 15 million cases of smallpox a year in the mid-1960s.

8. The British used smallpox as a biological weapon at the Siege of Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania in 1763 against France and its Native American allies.

9. In 2017 Bill Gates said smallpox bioterrorism could be more dangerous than a nuclear weapon.

10. Mary II of England, Louis XV of France and Tsar Peter II of Russia all died of smallpox.