The mysterious virus that infects cattle and protects us from monkeypox

A small group of doctors controversially tested how effectively a pioneering medical procedure protected against smallpox. It included, take a virus thought to infect cattle and use it to protect people against primo of that pathogen, smallpox, which was completely eradicated in Spain in the 1970s.

The history of smallpox dates back to the 18th century when Lady Montagu, a British writer, during her stay in Turkey, observed that women who milked cows did not get smallpox. The animals were infected with the disease, but of a milder variety that, when infected to the farmers, made them immune to even the most virulent manifestations of the disease.

This woman was the first to impregnate needles with pus of the smallpox that the cows had and inoculated the virus to his son, even to heirs of European monarchs, but his technique ended up being rejected and many doctors in England did not trust his method.

It was in 1796 when Edward Jenner, a compatriot doctor of Montagu, confirmed the observations of the writer on one of the viruses that has killed more people in the world. Jenner decided to inoculate James Phipps, an 8 year old boy, son of his gardener, the virus scrapes from a cow. The little boy had a fever for a couple of days, but did not develop any serious infection or show any symptoms of smallpox.

In Spain, Jenner’s advances reached the ears of the surgeon Xavier de Balmiswho told King Charles IV and organized the call Philanthropic Vaccine Expedition, which left La Coruña in 1803 for Central America. Balmis traveled with 22 orphaned children, which would transport the vaccine through their own immunization. Cowpox was inoculated in one of them and after 10 days a few grains came out that exhaled the so-called vaccine fluid. This was collected and inoculated into another child. And so the chain remained. Although lives were lost along the way, it is estimated that more than 500,000 people were immunized directly by the Balmis expedition and that millions of people were saved to die thanks to creation, in the places through which he passed, from Sanitary Boards and public Vaccination Houses.

The last endemic outbreak of smallpox was quickly declared and contained in Somalia in 1977. The successful Smallpox Eradication Program provided essential tools and knowledge on disease surveillance, the benefits of ring vaccination (which consists of vaccinating all the people who have been in contact with someone infected, thus creating a protection ring) and the importance of health promotion in the fight against diseases such as polio and Ebola virus disease.

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