This content was created by Maren Ehlers. The last update was by Kate McDonald.
Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian HistoryMain MenuGet to Know the SiteGuided TourShow Me HowA click-by-click guide to using this siteModulesRead the seventeen spatial stories that make up Bodies and Structures 2.0Tag MapExplore conceptsComplete Grid VisualizationDiscover connectionsGeotagged MapFind materials by geographic locationLensesCreate your own visualizationsWhat We LearnedLearn how multivocal spatial history changed how we approach our researchAboutFind information about contributors and advisory board members, citing this site, image permissions and licensing, and site documentationTroubleshootingA guide to known issuesAcknowledgmentsThank youDavid Ambaras1337d6b66b25164b57abc529e56445d238145277Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fThis project was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Photograph of an unvaccinated boy with smallpox and a vaccinated boy
1media/Allan Warner Photograph_thumb.jpeg2020-11-27T10:00:44-05:00Maren Ehlers18502c6775e5db37b999ee7b08c8c075867ca31d358Taken in 1901 by Allan Warner, doctor at Leicester Isolation Hospital, to combat fears and misinformation about smallpox vaccination.plain2021-07-23T20:14:49-04:001901Collection of Dr Jenner’s House, Museum and Garden, https://jennermuseum.com/john carr2015111213161120151112131611The Jenner TrustUsed with permission.Maren EhlersME-0030RCSEngKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
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12019-11-18T17:16:27-05:00The Epidemiology of Smallpox21plain2021-10-22T15:13:59-04:0035.7809, 137.0540Hida Province52.6333, -1.1333Leicester19011771-1852Maren EhlersWarner, Allan
The smallpox virus is transmitted by airborne droplets or secretions from skin lesions and scabs attached to textiles or house dust (Jannetta 1987, 64). Most outbreaks of smallpox occur in the winter and spring, because the virus can survive outside the human body for a certain length of time under cool and dry weather conditions. But human mobility—of merchants, sailors, pilgrims, and many other kinds of travelers—has always played a critical role in spreading the disease.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, the smallpox virus had become endemic in Japan (Jannetta 1987, Chapter 4). Even in remote rural regions, the virus was either circulating or frequently being reimported from outside. Under these conditions, most children would have been infected by the age of five. In the course of the Tokugawa period, travel and migration between urban and rural areas intensified and probably increased exposure to the disease. However, contemporary documentation is not detailed enough to trace the movement of the smallpox virus within and between regions.
In the nineteenth century intervals between outbreaks became shorter, and mortality from the virus appears to have decreased over time. Yet smallpox remained a major killer of young children. Because its victims were young, smallpox epidemics did not disrupt the social order in the same way as other mass outbreaks of infectious disease. But smallpox did have a significant impact on population growth. Ann Jannetta has estimated that in the case of Hida province, for which sufficient temple death records are available between 1771 and 1852, smallpox accounted for 26 percent of all deaths under age ten and claimed the lives of about ten percent of all born children. The disease more than halved the annual rate of population growth in Hida. Until the arrival of the vaccine, there was no effective prevention, let alone treatment for the infected. Although some Japanese doctors practiced variolation—controlled exposure of children to the human smallpox virus through scabs—this method was quite risky and never widely applied in Japan.