"S" is for Smallpox

Feb 20, 2019

Credit SC Public Radio

"S" is for Smallpox. An acute, highly contagious disease, smallpox was a major threat in South Carolina for centuries. In the 1700s an extremely virulent form of smallpox (variola major) developed in Europe and gradually spread to the New World. It was one of the world’s most feared diseases, not only because it often killed upward of twenty percent of the infected, but also because it often left survivors scarred with facial “pock marks” and sometimes blinded them. Many smallpox epidemics struck South Carolina killing hundred of Europeans and Africans and devastating the local Native American population. During the 1738 epidemic, some doctors resorted to widespread inoculation as a smallpox preventative. It was widely employed, but controversial. The state did not make vaccination compulsory until 1905. By 1930 smallpox had been eradicated from South Carolina.