Smallpox In Boston Essay

Between April and December of 1721, over six thousand colonists in Boston contracted a world-wide feared viral infection known as smallpox. After the occurrence of over nine hundred deaths in Boston alone, the infestation of this disease in the colony became known as the Smallpox Epidemic. During the epidemic, it became widely acknowledged that survivors of smallpox were immune to later occurrences of the disease. This led to the consideration of the medical practice of inoculation—the deliberate introduction of the living smallpox virus to cause a mild case of the disease that would provide immunity. In contrast to the claims of its creators, inoculation was not always successful and did result in a small number of deaths in patients, but…

Matthew Niederhuber explains that “inoculations were significantly less fatal than the naturally occurring virus” (6) and is proved correct by a separate source that states “if a person was deliberately infected in this way, they found that their symptoms were milder and their survival rate much better than those of someone who ‘naturally’ contracted the disease” (“The Boston Smallpox Epidemic” 2). Inoculation provided an unhealthy individual relinquishment from the horrible attacks the disease posed on the body, which, in turn, ultimately led to the survival of the colonist. Cotton Mather and Zabdiel Boylston were both strong advocates for inoculation and started to treat those who accepted the process once the fallacies of its failure were put to rest. The procedure was certainly a risk but those who survived were immune for the rest of their lives and “[e]ncouraged by this success, Boylston inoculated 247 more persons, 6 of whom still died as a result of the disease” (“Colonial Culture” 2). The colonists began to realize that the process of inoculation was their best chance of survival during a time where no other medical procedures were available. Boylston’s ideas elicited one of the most heated debates in the history of the colony of Boston and, as shown in a novel from the standpoint of a colonist during the epidemic, their reaction to the procedure proved that it was greatly feared by the common people (Coss 4). Boylston continued to inoculate anyone who trusted the procedure and word of its success began to spread to the ears of healthy and unhealthy individuals infected by the disease itself, or the fear of it (`Colonial Culture` 2). The fear of the procedure was starting to diminish…