Archaeologists are amazed: the Vikings spread smallpox

(ORDO NEWS) — Archeology experts have discovered extinct strains of smallpox in Viking skeletons. This turned out to be a real discovery, since they managed to prove that a fatal disease had already tormented humanity at least 1400 years ago.

Smallpox is spread from person to person through infectious droplets, killing about a third of those affected and leaving another third permanently damaged or blind. An estimated 300 million people died from smallpox in the 20th century alone, before it was officially eradicated in 1980 as a result of a global vaccination effort, the first human disease to be eradicated.

Recently, archaeologists have sequenced the genomes of newly discovered strains of the virus after it was extracted from the teeth of Viking skeletons dug up in northern Europe.

Thus, the Vikings, known as avid sea travelers in Europe and beyond, may well have been one of the first spread of the disease. Here is what Professor Eske Willerslev of the University of Cambridge, who led the study, said:

“We found new strains of smallpox in the teeth of Viking skeletons and found out that their genetic makeup is different from the modern smallpox virus that was destroyed in the 20th century. We already knew that Vikings traveled in Europe and beyond, and now we know that they had smallpox.”

“People traveling all over the world are spreading COVID-19 quickly, and it’s probably the same way that Vikings spread smallpox. Only then did they travel by ship and not by plane. The 1400-year-old genetic information extracted from these skeletons is extremely important because it allows us to know the evolutionary history of the variola virus that caused smallpox as we know it.”

Smallpox had been eradicated from most countries in Europe and the United States by the early 20th century, but remained endemic in Africa, Asia and South America.

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched an eradication program in 1967 that included contact tracing and mass communication campaigns – all public health methods currently being used by countries to combat today’s coronavirus pandemic.

However, only the global introduction of the vaccine has allowed scientists to stop smallpox in its path. Historians believe that smallpox may have existed since 10,000 AD. BC, but until now there was no scientific evidence that the virus was present until the 17th century.

Despite the fact that the origin of the virus is unknown, as is the origin of COVID-19, it is believed that it originated from animals.

Professor Martin Sikora, one of the senior authors leading the study from the University of Copenhagen, said: “The timing of the emergence of smallpox has always been unclear, but by ordering the earliest known strains of the killer virus, we proved the first mention of this disease can be confidently attributed to the era Vikings.


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