Smallpox: 1st Place – Abigail Rickabaugh, Bear Creek School

Edward Jenner was a remarkable man. He played a very important role in the eradication of Smallpox. He discovered that Cowpox, a disease similar to Smallpox, gave people immunity to Smallpox. He was determined to find a vaccine for Smallpox, and he was very successful!

What Is Smallpox?
Smallpox is a virus which means it is immune to antibiotics and can only be treated with vaccinations. There are two main types of smallpox, Variola major, which is very deadly, and Variola minor, which is less deadly. About thirty percent of the people infected with Variola major died. Pox, is from the Latin word, spotted. This refers to the raised bumps on the infected patients’ skin. Sometimes, people were born immune to Smallpox, mainly because they were exposed to it often.

What Happens in a Smallpox Infection?
Once infected, it was seven to seventeen days before symptoms would appear. Symptoms included headaches, backaches, high fever, sneezing, coughing, and fatigue. Two to three days later, a rash appeared on the face, arms, and legs. The red marks filled with pus and crust over. Scabs would fall off in three to four weeks. The person was very contagious until the scabs fell off. People would contract smallpox when they would come in contact with the body fluids of an infected person. The people who survived Smallpox were left with many scars from the scabs and sometimes it resulted in blindness.

Edward Jenner
Edward Jenner was born on May 17, 1749 in Berkeley, England. Sadly he was orphaned at age five and went to live with his older brother. When he was thirteen years old, he went to work for a doctor. He then overheard a farmhand saying they had recovered from a harmless disease called Cowpox and were now immune to Smallpox. Most doctors thought this was silly and did not believe it, but Edward did not forget this information. When he was age twenty-one, he became an apprentice to a well known surgeon, Dr. John Hunter. After becoming a physician, he returned to Berkeley to practice medicine. Then, in 1796 he revisited the “Cowpox gives you immunity to Smallpox” theory. He located a woman who had Cowpox and took fluid from one of her pustules. He then used that to inoculate an eight-year old boy named Phipps with Cowpox. Phipps got a mild fever, but otherwise was fine. Then, when he was fully recovered, Edward gave him a small dose of Smallpox. Phipps never got sick. It worked! At first doctors did not believe him, but after experimenting with it themselves, it was evident that it was true. Edward Jenner had at last found a vaccination for smallpox.

His Influence
Edward Jenner had a great impact on me and on the world. My mom is a nurse, so I have always been interested in health. I also like studying history in school. If Edward Jenner had not discovered the vaccine for Smallpox, the disease may still be around today. We should all be thankful for his discovery. I like to learn about anything unfamiliar, but I especially like learning about information that most other people do not know.


  • Ollhoff, Jim. Smallpox. Edina, MN: ABDO Pub., 2010. Print.
  • “What Is Smallpox?” KidsHealth – the Web’s Most Visited Site about Children’s Health. Ed. Steven Dowshen. The Nemours Foundation, 01 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.
  • “Diseases & Conditions.” Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 1995-2010. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
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