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Smallpox diagnosis kit, London, 1965-1970

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Early diagnosis of smallpox helped 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. They may have been consistent with a stage in the development of smallpox. The rubber teat and capillary tubes also collected any fluid from the skin. The samples were sent by post to the Virus Reference Laboratory at the Central Public Laboratory in London. The results could take between two and 72 hours. Once a major global killer, smallpox is the only disease to have been completely eradicated by a sustained immunisation programme.

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Glossary: smallpox

Smallpox is a infectious virus unique to humans. In the skin, this results in a characteristic rash, and fluid-filled blisters. During the 20th century, it is estimated that smallpox was responsible for 300–500 million deaths. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. To this day, smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely eradicated.

Glossary: clinical diagnosis

A diagnosis given based on the signs and symptoms of a disease.

Glossary: smallpox diagnosis kit

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