Measles, a respiratory virus, and smallpox have ravaged populations in the past. Over 2500 years ago, the virus leapt from cattle to humans. The first systematic description of measles as different from smallpox was made by a Persian physician, Mohammed iban Zakardya al-Razi (869-932). It affected nearly everyone. But people endured it as inevitable. European colonists who crossed the Atlantic did the worst damage. They took with them to the new world of the Americas the source of smallpox and typhoid which wiped out 90 per cent of the indigenous population.

The road to death took a turn for the better only in the 18th century. It happened in England. In 1796 Edward Jenner, an English doctor inoculated a 13-year old boy with cowpox and demonstrated human’s natural immunity to smallpox. The first smallpox vaccine was developed two years later in 1798.

As the vaccination succeeded in many parts of the world, the world was declared smallpox free in 1980.....

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