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The 12 Biggest Disease Outbreaks That Changed U.S. History

With the advance of medicine and the development of all sorts of vaccines and cures, the number of infectious disease outbreaks or epidemics has dropped considerably. In some cases, we learned from our past experiences, in other cases, we had to face new viruses and diseases.

With that in mind, let’s dig into the past and learn about the biggest outbreaks in U.S. history. Is present any different from the past?

Photo Credit: Content Providers(s): CDC/James Hicks

1633-1634: Smallpox from European settlers

Smallpox is an infectious disease caused by the variola virus. Its symptoms consisted in high fever, chills, back pain and rashes. In North America, the virus appeared in the 1600s and killed entire Native American tribes, contributing to a 70 percent decrease in the Native population. In 1721, Boston experienced a major smallpox outbreak and out of a population of 10,006, around 850 of the almost 5,800 infected ones died from smallpox.

How it ended: In 1770, a vaccine for cowpox was developed by Edward Jenner. This vaccine helped people boost their immunity and become immune to smallpox without becoming infected.

Present: In 1972, a nationwide vaccination program took place and completely eradicated smallpox from the United States. In fact, vaccines are no longer necessary.

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