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Smallpox diagnosis kit, London, 1970-1979

Early diagnosis of smallpox is one way of helping to prevent the spread of the disease. This kit was used by doctors in general practice surgeries and by school nurses. Samples were taken from skin complaints, including rashes, pustules and scabs which may have been consistent with a stage in the development of smallpox. Any fluid from the skin was collected using the rubber teat and capillary tubes. The samples were sent by post to the Virus Reference Laboratory at the Central Public Laboratory in London. It could take anywhere between two and 72 hours for the results of any tests to be known.

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Glossary: diagnostic tool

Any range of medical instruments used to diagnose illness.

Glossary: capillary tube

A glass tube with a very small internal diameter.

Glossary: smallpox

Smallpox is an infectious virus unique to humans. It results in a characteristic skin rash and fluid-filled blisters. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. Smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely wiped out.