How Some Soldiers Inadvertently Got Syphilis In an Effort to Avoid Smallpox


2nd Lieutenant
Oct 26, 2012

A vaccine for smallpox was developed in the late 1790s when it was discovered scratching the pus of the less virulent cowpox and injecting into someone offered immunity to smallpox.

By the start of the war vaccination against smallpox was well understand. However, a couple of problems existed. One, the blisters from smallpox could be hard to distinguish from the blisters of Syphilis, so even a doctor could mistakenly believe they were inoculating a soldier against smallpox when in reality they were being infected with Syphilis. Secondly, there was a great shortage of medical doctors so soldiers often took to self inoculation in the hopes of avoiding smallpox. Unsanitary techniques sometimes lead to infection, plus if the blister was Syphilis instead of smallpox , they were inadvertently infecting themselves with Syphilis.
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