History’s Mysteries – Smallpox: Deadly Again? (History Channel Documentary)


coming up doctors win the battle over a
deadly disease but could it be used as a weapon of mass destruction small pumps it is one of the deadliest
diseases ever to strike human time it kills without prejudice attacking the
mightiest King to the lowliest peasant there are just thousands of plays that
Richard has influenced history that we can’t even imagine now as we stand on
the brink of total eradication of this once powerful plague
the danger is better and deadlier than ever
someone may use it as a biological weapon god help us if they do there
wasn’t a country in the world that had not been touched and devastated by
smallpox but in the most massive undertaking ever to rid humanity of a
disease smallpox was conquered it took a 12-year campaign to vaccinate the world
officially only a few vials of the live virus remain and there is a raging
debate about what to do with them join us for smallpox deadly again Atlanta Georgia in the middle of this
bustling city of three and a half million people sits an ordinary-looking
complex of government buildings the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention behind these closed doors scientists work in high-security labs
with some of the world’s deadliest biological agents Ebola and fracks
Marburg they are all lethal only one among them however has already massacred
millions it’s name is smallpox
today specimens of the deadly virus also known as variola sleep in a nondescript
freezer under the ultimate security precautions the virus is frozen in
liquid nitrogen and not many people even know exactly where physically the rooms
are where the virus is being held viruses are among the smallest of all
life forms these single-celled parasites invade a host cell and hijack its DNA in
order to replicate themselves among all known viruses smallpox is the largest
containing the most complex in DNA sequence it is also one of the smartest
Dinah’s designed for one thing which is to kill it generally enters through the
nose and attacks the cells in the lungs the virus expands in the cell then the
next cell over which touches the first cell will catch it and it goes on from
there in a matter of hours it can spread all over the body it’s one of the
fastest and most efficient killers of them all
unlocking the mysteries of how viruses operate our modern discoveries but
smallpox is an ancient menace this microscopic life-form has been
terrorizing mankind since the beginning of civilization no one knows when
smallpox makes its first appearance on the stage of human history most likely
it begins as an animal virus somewhere in Africa the Middle East or the Asian
subcontinent at some point the virus makes the jump to the human population
we estimate we have to have hundreds of thousands of people before it could keep
going so we assumed the spread to the human population did not occur until
after the first agricultural settlements maybe 10,000 years ago the smallpox
virus follows the population as it migrates it spreads slowly throughout
burgeoning human communities the first tangible evidence of its deadly nature
is found in the ruins of ancient Egypt in 1898 an archeologist uncovers the
mummy of Pharaoh Ramses the fifth believed to have died around 1157 BC
that mummy has a rash the distribution of which and the size of the pustules
match almost exactly that of smallpox in more more recent times and so we think
that is the first concrete evidence of the smallpox virus in humans vague
descriptions of the virus appear in some early chronicles in 430 BC Greek
historian Thucydides writes of a lethal pox like illness that decimates the
great city-state of Athens causing the end
Peloponnesian War 165 ad Roman centurions returning from Mesopotamia
carry another pox like illness to their capital city the plague of Antonius
raises for 15 years and kills an estimated three and a half to seven
million people the first full written record of a smallpox case is provided by
a ninth century Persian physician Rossi’s he describes a gruesome
pathology that begins with a rash covering the body then days later breaks
out into tiny pus filled pox blindness may result if the eyes are affected if a
patient is lucky he is scarred for life if not he dies this virus killed people
by destroying internal systems we could see what it was doing to the outside of
the the body of the skin but in fact the same thing was happening to the
intestines to the linings of the lungs and those kind of vital organs so you’d
have the lining sloughing off and people simply drowning for example in their own
internal fluids early treatments for the virus variola latin for speckled are
varied and uniformly uncomfortable the physician Rossi’s recommends that
victims should be bled to the point of feeding other therapies include opening
the sores on the seventh day with a golden needle or drinking a potion of
horse dung possibly the most torturous treatment
involves the application of heat even though smallpox involves a high
fever it put you next to a fire and it closed all the windows so you take a
person who was definitely ill and made him feel much worse that heat somehow we
came to be associated with the color red so that smallpox victims were put in
rooms that were painted entirely red that had red referees they were made to
wear red pajamas they were wrapped in red blankets they sometimes were made to
drink red juices all with the understanding that this color red would
draw the infection out more rapidly it’s hard to know but a certain percentage
and probably a substantial percentage of smallpox patients died because of the
doctors not because of the decision as trade routes open up between Europe and
Asia merchants travel the Silk Road to China unaware that they are also
exporting the mortal ailment Crusaders returning from West Asia in the 12th and
13th centuries carry the disease back home to their families
ignorant of the fact that even those not afflicted with full symptoms are
spreading the virus as soon as people came to begin feeling ill with headache
backache those kinds of symptoms they were already breathing out virus onto
others other killer diseases such as bubonic plague or yellow fever sweep
through populations periodically but by the 15th century smallpox is endemic in
much of the old world continually spreading throughout the population
most people who reach adulthood have already survived the infection in fact
most of the paintings you see of the great beauties of the time the painters
were faking it because these people particularly the women had truly awful
complexions but people just saw through it they simply ignored the pox because
everybody had it October 15 62 the 29 year old Protestant
Queen of England Elizabeth the first catches a chill while walking in the
gardens of Hampton Court a German physician diagnoses her ailment as
smallpox sending the Queen into a rage have the name away out of my sight
the Queen’s anger cannot prevent the inevitable a tell-tale rash soon appears
with his accompanying high fever England is in turmoil if Elizabeth dies without
an heir Mary Queen of Scots may seize the throne bringing Catholics back into
power Queen Elizabeth who was wrapped in crimson cloth and put near a fire they
closed all the windows animators absolutely miserable as possible despite
the best efforts of her physicians she survived
there are many historians who think that she lost most of her hair one of the
reasons why she wore red wig for the rest of her life and they’re not quite
sure what it did to her complexion but quite likely it was a mess was one of
the reasons she worked very very thick makeup in the years following her
illness the young Queen squelches the Catholic threat and ultimately executed
her cousin Mary Elizabeth’s reign last 45 years becoming one of the most
dynamic eras of the British Empire this was one of the great might have been
some of history if she had died in her 20s as she was then certainly English
and probably world history would have been very different other English
monarchs are not so fortunate when smallpox strikes their Thrones over 130
years later William the 3rd and Mary the second rule as Coe sovereigns William is
known to have entertained at least one mistress yet when his wife becomes ill
with the pox in the days before Christmas 1690 for grief overwhelms the
King as recorded by the Bishop of Salisbury he cried out that there was no
hope and that from being the happiest he was now going to be the miserable
escrita on earth he was said to be inconsolable William the 3rd spent the
duration of his wife’s illness at her bedside and really witnessed her
slipping away horribly disfigured by this terrible disease
eight days after the onset of her symptoms tolling bells announced the
Queen’s death to a heartsick England William has already lost both his father
and mother to smallpox now he is alone once more he never married again and was
a very sad man for the rest of his life not all the deaths by smallpox yield
such dire results when a young man Chu Emperor of China dies of the pox in 1661
ad court advisers ignore the time-honored rules of succession the
powers that be then selected not the oldest sentence which have been natural
but they skipped to the third youngest son because that child was the one who
had already had smallpox and that boy grew up to become one of the two or
three greatest Empress of China kongsi he ruled for more than 30 years and was
a very very wise man the virus spares no royal family during a single 100 20 year
period beginning in 1654 smallpox kills eight ruling monarchs including King
Louis the 15th of France King Louis the 1st of Spain and Tsar Peter the second
of Russia we cannot know what those monarchs would have done had they lived
but we can know that they would have done things differently than their
successors did by striking at the very core of power
the variola virus indisputably helps shape the course of world history
however it is during the early 16th century that the gods of smallpox begin
to wreak Yulin destruction on an unimaginable scale by 1520 the Spanish have already settled
the Caribbean islands when Aaron and ol Cortez occupies the Aztec capital
Tenochtitlan in Mexico he hopes to capture new slaves and a bounty of gold
the Aztecs are a highly militarized society and eventually drive the
Spaniard and his small army from the city it was a major major defeat the
Aztecs essentially drove Cortez out of town but one of the soldiers retreating
had smallpox the Native Americans had absolutely no immunity to most European
diseases smallpox most of all Cortes reorganizes his troops and months later
heads back to reengage the Aztec warriors but this time he encounters
little resistance the virus has done most of his work for him
bodies line the streets of Tenochtitlan a vast proportion of the Aztec
population is dead it seems that the Indians were unusually susceptible to
the disease death rates of 70 to 90% were common and this was true all the
way down through the Andean region smallpox spreads down through the
Central American Peninsula and into South America terrorizing the natives
with its relentless death toll and ghastly skin eruptions the fact that
this virus appeared at about the same time that this as a Spanish gave it that
much more of a psychological impact of the felt that these people had magic
powers that they were escaping this infection that was devastating all of
the Native American populations in 1532 Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro
finds the ancient civilization of the Incas in chaos and his leaders dead
some historians estimate that the smallpox virus has reduced the
population of Peru to one-fourth of its original size so essentially it wasn’t
the Spanish army that conquered the Native Americans it was smallpox the
smallpox virus also appears in North America around the same time as
Europeans seek to conquer and colonize the new land
the pilgrims record the fact that God saw fit to come amongst the native
people and take away great numbers of them to make room for us well actually
there’s been a massive smallpox epidemic the preceding two years
as in Central and South America the virus spreads like wildfire as the
colonial borders push westward into new frontiers in 1763 colonial British
officers stationed near Fort Pitt Pennsylvania faced a confrontation with
local natives sir Jeffrey Amherst commander-in-chief of the British forces
in America suggest a new weapon to battle the contentious Indians in a
letter to another Colonel could it all be contrived to send the smallpox among
these disaffected tribes of Indians we must on this occasion use every
stratagem in our power to reduce them shortly afterwards a British officer
writes in his journal that the plan is in motion we gave them two blankets and
a handkerchief out of the smallpox Hospital I hope it will have the desired
effect no official documents record the success of this operation however in the
ensuing months hundreds of Mingo Delaware and Shawnee Native Americans
died this is quite possibly the first ever use of a biological weapon in 1709
the virus reaches the Pacific Ocean infecting Native Americans in
California’s missions in the course of just under 200 years smallpox has
reduced these once robust nations to a fraction of their original population by
the 18th century there is hardly a country that has spared from the terror
of smallpox it kills up to 30 percent of those it afflicts those who survive are
branded for life smallpox was a river that everyone had to cross one way or
another people lived with the understanding that they would have
smallpox almost certainly during their lifetimes they would either die
prematurely from it or not some observers note that if a person
survives smallpox he retains immunity throughout his life this leads to one of
the first measures aimed at mitigating the virus’s deadly toll in Turkey and
1717 an intrepid English woman Lady Mary Wortley Montagu witnesses a strange
procedure which the Turks used to induce a mild case of smallpox before a major
case can strike specifically they found that if you took pustular material from
a patient who had the act of disease and you put it on the skin and then sort of
scratched it in the patient would not be that sick normally no one knows exactly
when or where this practice called variolation or inoculation first
appeared it results in death in up to 2% of patients but people fear smallpox so
greatly that many willingly assumed the risk called
buying the pox various styles of inoculation are practiced in parts of
Africa India and China now Lady Mary Wortley Montagu decides to bring the
procedure to England but he or she meets resistance to this unprecedented medical
procedure uttered by understood that this was a very dangerous virus and
while I might understand that putting it into the skin was less dangerous than
people breathing it naturally it was difficult for laypeople and even some
other physicians to understand that Lady Montagues friend the Princess of Wales
seeks better proof of the strange procedure safety and ask six condemned
prisoners facing the gallows to be very elated if they die smallpox will be the
executioner if they live they will be spared the noose and set free five of
them came down with minor cases of smallpox and survived the sixth came
down with nothing he was probably immune and they let him go so she went to an
orphanage notice he the world he would pick on two people who at least the
capable of helping themselves and had a bunch of orphans very elated and none of
them died she then decided maybe was safe
and had a family evaluator gradually with this Royal stamp of approval the
practice of inoculation spreads throughout England but variolation
causes controversy again in the American colonies
Boston 1721 graveyards fill with fresh victims as a smallpox epidemic grips the
port city but the great Puritan preacher Cotton Mather has learned that one of
his African slaves doesn’t fear the disease the slaved allowed us how he
wasn’t in danger of getting smallpox because he had been inoculated before
and in that way Cotton Mather came to first year of this practice he then put
it into practice having one of his children inoculated as evidence of how
this could be done this deliberate attempt to infect someone with the
heinous pox outrages the anxious Bostonians the doctor who performed in
the inoculation zebb deal Boylston allegedly hides in his home for two
weeks after threats are made against his life someone tosses a crude grenade into
Reverend Mathers house with a note attached got mad at you dog
damn you I’ll inoculate you with this with a Parkes to you the epidemic of
1722 proves the last major outbreak of smallpox in Boston as its citizens
finally accept inoculation in other places around the world the
practice of variolation begins to ease the death rates of smallpox also for the
first time physicians know enough to count precisely the days between
exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms they now realize that there is
a ten to 12-day incubation period when someone seems well but is in an
infectious stage a danger to others physicians and governments begin to use
isolation as a means of containing the spread of the disease you take some more
pucks patients and put him in ships in the harbor and not let anybody camera go
there were pest houses which were hospitals that flew special flags that
tell you to stay away from them that’s where they put the smallpox patients
other innovations improve the care of smallpox patients during the late 17th
century English physician Thomas Sydenham bans the heat treatment
ordering patients to move about as much as possible when in bed windows are
opened to let in fresh air light bed sheets replace red blankets still there
is no cure for smallpox once a patient is sick there is nothing to do but wait
it out by the late 18th century smallpox is at
its most destructive in Europe killing hundreds of thousands each year 1778 Gloucestershire England a smallpox
epidemic rages throughout the British countryside like many in rural areas a
local doctor Edward Jenner is aware of folk wisdom noting that dairymaids
working on his farm could nurse smallpox victims with no fear of contagion
milkmaids would catch cowpox which is a related is a sort of a first cousin to
smallpox and they would get mildly ill they would break out in sores usually on
their hands and then they would be fine milkmaids never got smallpox for some
reason rather getting cow pox gave them immunity after studying cow pox
infections for 18 years Jenner finally prepares to prove a hunch on May 14th
1796 he takes puss from the hand of a milkmaid infected with cow pox and
inoculates an 8 year old boy James Phipps after Phipps recovers from a mild
case of the bovine disease Jenner inoculates him with the actual and
potentially lethal smallpox virus as expected the smallpox infection never
takes hold the doctor publishes his results naming the new technique
vaccination after vaca the Latin word for cow
Jenner gains a claim as discoverer of the world’s first vaccine he is known
today as the father of modern immunology it was a major medical achievement there
was a new way of looking at prevention of disease it is true however the Jenner
had no idea what he was doing it seemed to him logical that it would work and it
worked but he had no clue why it worked many ridiculed the new vaccine but most
submit to the cowpox inoculations when new epidemics of smallpox break out soon the world is clamoring for the new
smallpox vaccine would be vaccinators in Spain design innovative methods to keep
the vaccine alive during transport to the new world they would take a group of
war fans and put them on the boat they would inoculate the first one with the
virus and after a pustule would form on the arm they would take material from
that orphan and inoculate the next one and the next one eventually when they
got to the new world let’s say then the orphans would be then given over to
families living there and that’s the way they got the vaccine from place-to-place
at last physicians begin to make inroads against
the deadly disease that has ravaged millions for almost 3,000 years
mortality figures drop worldwide however vaccination rates vary from country to
country and few people realize that the vaccine does not confer lifetime
immunity much of the population remains at risk even President Abraham Lincoln
falls ill with the pox just hours after completing the
Gettysburg Address on November 19th 1863 fortunately it is not a severe case as
he recovers the president finds humor in his illness amid the cantankerous
politics of Washington President Lincoln is said to have said to one of his
associates that there was one good thing about Lincoln’s infection and that was
that Lincoln now had something that he could give to everyone Lincoln survives
with few visible scars but as the 19th century draws to a close the same can’t
be said for the world at large the scourge of smallpox has exterminated
hundreds of millions of lives and it’s wrath still threatens many people all
over the planet in the early 20th century vaccinations
combined with isolation of smallpox patients stems the tide of infection in
most industrialized nations with the threat diminishing Americans
aren’t being vaccinated leaving them susceptible to infection in March of
1947 an American businessman returns from Mexico infected with the variola
virus and dies in a New York Hospital by mid-april 12 more cases have reported
causing a panic they wound up vaccinating essentially everybody in New
York City he 6 million people and they did it in a matter of days at one time
half a million people were vaccinated one day which still believed to be the
world’s record this frightening incident underscores the sad truth as long as
smallpox exists somewhere in the world the terror will not diminish in 1953 the
director-general of the newly formed World Health Organization and arm of the
United Nations suggests a solution to the smallpox crisis his plan to
eradicate it from the human race almost two decades passed before the
Soviet Union and the United States reach across the battle lines of the Cold War
and join forces to fund an eradication effort dr. Deanie Henderson of the CDC
heads the campaign there are five main areas where the virus remains endemic in
order to stop the disease health workers will have to interrupt permanently the
chain of transmission it will be the first time anyone has attempted such a
daunting task Brazilian physician dr. Ciro de cuadros
joins the effort in his country we have many species that have been
extinguished by pollution smallpox was the first species in that mankind made a
deliberate attempt to distinguish the first battle in his historic campaign
starts in western Africa in 1967 dr. Donald Hopkins is part of an army of
local health workers and international volunteers who set out equipped only
with jet injectors and freeze-dried vaccine for many it is their first real
look at the ancient disease all of us young people were really geared up to go
get smallpox and it was impressive even shocking to see the disease face to face
you could see in a sense how much they hurt in a way that could not be conveyed
by my pictures I remember only too vividly visiting a smallpox ward in
Dhaka and Bangladesh with a British physician who had seen a lot of tropical
disease in Africa and this physician sort of put his hands on the Bannister
outside he said this is the most horrible disease who was ever created
and this guy’s seen everything the first plan of attack is mass vaccination when
the program runs short of vaccine in Southeast Nigeria a different approaches
tried if they had to set priorities for using little vaccine they had they
focused on they currently infected household in villages and were able to
demonstrate that lo and behold by vaccinating only the smaller number of
people they were able to stop the infection from spreading this technique known as surveillance and
containment becomes the main plan of attack the strategy is to find a case of
smallpox isolate the patient and vaccinate everyone within a ring around
the location then the ring is extended and they vaccinate an even wider circle
of possible contacts thus containing the infection for this to succeed 100%
healthcare workers will have to track down every single case of smallpox on
the planet there were tremendous logistical hurdles in simply getting to
places many of these places had no roads you had to walk into them
Ford streams while animals I have to say we’re not generally a threat though I
personally worried about about snakes a lot for the most part villagers eagerly
line up to be vaccinated although some health workers meet with resistance they
would try to convince the chief of day of the village the priests they would
reluctantly accept and what is Wars sometimes they would become even hostile
they would force you to come to the village and suddenly we’re chased by
dogs you are chased by stones you are chased
by Spears or chased by girls flashcards depicting infected babies are shown to
villagers school children lead the workers to housebound patients
when I began with a smallpox program when there were many people very
pessimistic telling me you couldn’t do it surprisingly you’ve got along about
two three years into the program and it was going so much better than we’d ever
imagined I mean that the disease was disappearing by 1971 the last case is
isolated in Latin America the American continents are free of the virus for the
first time since the conquistadors arrived soon Indonesia and Southern
Africa claimed success as well they began to think you know we could really
do this we might get there and then we hit South Asia in India
Hindus pray to the goddess Chautala Mata when smallpox strikes epidemics are so
horrible in this country of 600 million the dead bodies clogged the rivers did
contain an outbreak here and you go a little further and you’d fight another
half dozen villages that were infected you didn’t even know where to begin
there was so much to do in 1973 India and w-h-o launched a desperate plan they
mobilize an unprecedented army of health workers to visit each and every home in
the country to document any cases of smallpox the workers have ten days to
conduct the search then vaccination teams follow amazingly this strategy
succeeds 120,000 health workers went out and in
ten days visited every house in India unbelievable and it took eight tons of
paper that has to do today the buck work on this with reporting accuracy near
100% it becomes clear that there is far more smallpox than originally believed
but workers successfully vaccinate the rings of population around the pockets
of infection Chautala mata goddess of smallpox begins to lose her power the
last cases occurred little more than eighteen months later and was gone from
India the Indian government couldn’t believe it and frankly we couldn’t
believe it probably for the first time in recorded history
there was no smallpox in India following the WH OHS heroic campaign the
virus survives in two remaining areas Bangladesh and Eastern Africa
despite civil wars in both countries the search and containment method again
prevails by 1977 WH o officials believe they have contained the virus in these
regions as well Somali and al-eman Mullen now holds a dubious distinction
in 1977 he becomes the last human to contract smallpox from a natural
infection for two years officials wait for another
case to surface but not does finally on May 8 1980 after the virus has killed at
least 300 million people in the 20th century alone the World Health
Organization declares the world free of smallpox it recommends that all
countries cease vaccinations it is no longer necessary
the eradication of smallpox was really an unprecedented human achievement this
was the first time that we had broken forever
the change of transmission of any disease the fact that it happened with
the virus that had caused so much havoc among humans made it that much more
momentous with the historic eradication of
smallpox in the 1970s vaccinations for the disease stops it is no longer a
threat the virus does not exist in the wild the World Health Organization calls
for laboratories around the world to destroy their samples of the virus or to
transfer them to one of two official repositories in Moscow or the Atlanta
facilities of the Centers for Disease Control WHL plans to finish off its
successful eradication program by destroying these remaining vials of the
virus sometime in June 1999 but in early 1992 a former high-level military doctor
from the Soviet Union now calling himself Ken ala Beck defects to America
he brings with him unsettling insider information about a massive biological
warfare operation in Russia first established in 1928 by late 80s and this
program was so huge very sophisticated very powerful was about 6070 thousand
people dozens of Institute’s research and development facilities and
production manufacturing facilities including smallpox in his book biohazard
dr. alphabet reveals the Soviet military’s decision to increase its work
with a smallpox virus at the same time as w-h-o is winning its war against the
disease at one point the Soviet factories produce 20 tons of the virus
to be dispersed to its enemies by means of specially designed warheads dr. a
lebecq’s revelations were earth-shattering there was a strong
suspicion and more than a suspicion that the Russians had been involved in some
sort of operations with regard to biological weapons but the what he
described the extent the complexity the investment the fact that was still
present I can say that this was a bombshell
small pox could indeed prove a powerful and deadly weapon not only does it
guarantee a death rate of about 30 percent on an unvaccinated population
but unlike other potential biological weapons it is highly contagious even
those who were inoculated before vaccinations stopped in the late 1970s
are vulnerable the vaccine doesn’t provide lifetime immunity everybody
practically everybody is vulnerable to this virus even a single person in fact
that with this virus could infect tens or even hundreds of new people by early
1999 revelations such as these raise enough concern that President Clinton
delays the scheduled destruction of the virus in the CDC repository this sparks
an argument that still divides the scientific community today some
researchers believe the actual virus will one day be our best weapon against
the disease they hope to use the virus to create a powerful new antiviral agent
I personally do not think that we should destroy the smallpox virus to destroy
the virus completely now says that we are certain that nobody is ever gonna
have a for this and to do so I think is arrogant others point out that it is the
supplies of the smallpox vaccine that are critical production of vaccines
stopped over 25 years ago creating another chilling scenario if
anybody attacks us with smallpox there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it
there’s not enough vaccine for 216 million Americans you can make it fast
enough to vaccinate everybody I’m more than disappointed that we didn’t destroy
the smallpox virus I’m deeply concerned that probably the greatest threat that
we have in bioterrorism is use of the smallpox virus and it seems to me that
anything we could possibly do to diminish that threat we should be doing completing the circle of history we are
back where we began even if our government stocks huge quantities of
vaccine as many experts recommend we will live in terror of smallpox as long
as it exists on earth I do hope that eventually the virus will
be totally destroyed that and I hope that this will be my lifetime despite this new climate of fear the
smallpox eradication campaign stands as an example of how nations can work
together for the common good many of the smallpox eradication team
members have moved on to apply their knowledge to the fight against other
diseases similar programs aimed to eradicate measles the guinea worm and
polio by the early 21st century those people who fought the disease we’re
doing something for the good of humanity they were underpaid they were overworked
it was dangerous there is no achievement in the history
of medicine that comes even close to what these people did I don’t have very
many heroes in my life but they’re my heroes the World Health Organization has
delayed its destruction of the last known vials of the virus while the
world’s medical and military leaders continue to debate the issue at this
time neither the Russians nor the Americans
seem willing to destroy this potentially devastating weapon to discover more
about this and other history’s mysteries topics please visit our website at
History Channel com

Comments 11

  • This a late 90's/early 2000's History Channel documentary, take everything with a grain of salt & watch at your own risk
    This is a non-profit, non-monetized Channel. I accrue no income whatsoever from it
    I make no claims as to the subject, content or accuracy of the episodes on my Channel or Playlists

  • When I was in the hospital after getting injured in Iraq, I met this guy who was paralyzed from the neck down from the smallpox vaccine… Luckily I was able to lie my way out of it…. I just told them I had shingles as a kid and I didn't have to get that disgusting series of shots.

  • Thank-you Peter David… For yet AGAIN …. ANOTHER… great documentary!…. truly one of the best YouTube channels!!

  • Thank you so much for airing this documentary. I found it very informative. 🙂

  • Thankfully I grew up being vaccinated for everything from the fifties on. I never knew anyone who had had smallpox but I did know people who had polio. Thank you, mom and dad! Virals are nasty things. People need to understand this and not keep their children from being protected. Better safe than sorry. Much better. I come from a medical background too, so yes, I’m for vaccines, not against them.

  • This is second time I've watched this particular documentary this year. I find it momentous and astounding what those doctors & health workers' did at the CDC/WHO, just wow, there are no words.👏👏👏👏👏☺✌

  • Hey man. Thanks for loading this up. Really enjoyed it.

  • Thanks for uploading!

  • To paraphrase The Hot Zone author and journalist, Richard Preston, there is only one known communicable disease that could bring the human race to its knees, and that disease is smallpox. His book The Demon in the Freezer on the subject of smallpox in the modern world has some flaws–not least of which is appearing to have been rushed out before it was ready, following the anthrax crisis just after 9/11–he still probably encapsulates the danger better than any other person has done. There is evidence that the reason the Soviet Union worked so hard, with the rest of the world, to eradicate smallpox "in the wild" was a means of keeping perceived enemies vulnerable to the disease, which they were creating by the metric ton in a weaponized form. Even if the same virus, sans weaponizing or genetic enhancement, as originally collected from human victims were to be accidentally released, it could cause a deadly epidemic amongst a human population that could kill millions. As if that weren't bad enough, Preston describes in his book a genetic engineering project some company (NOT in the USA) undertook that altered rat pox to the point that it was lethal to 100% of rats bred to be immune to rat pox, some 60% of those rats vaccinated against the disease, and at least 50% of rats which had the genetic immunity AND the vaccination. There's nothing to stop some bad actor from doing the same with human smallpox, if only the bad actor can get a sample of the virus. And now, some 20 years after this documentary was made, with the ability to recreate virus genomes from scratch using current and future gene technology, there's the frightening possibility that this horrible disease will return to the human race with a vengeance. I used to be mildly smug about it because I'm old enough to have a vaccination scar on my shoulder. And I was vaccinated a second time by the US Army some years after my first vaccination. Smug until I learned that, at best, the smallpox vaccine is only good for ten years. My second vaccination took place over thirty years ago. I guess I'll be dying in misery and agony along with the rest of you.

  • I just stumbled upon your GOLDMINE of documentaries! This smallpox one I used to watch on VHS with my small classes at a treatment center for teen boys. We studied serious “plagues” and how they changed the course of public policy/history. The guys were actually polite as they watched this video and had many questions. Thanks for amassing this collection! So educational and entertaining!

  • Ease up on the blusher pretty boy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *