Old records shed new light on smallpox outbreaks in 1700s

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly digitized records from the 18th century are shedding fresh light on devastating outbreaks of smallpox that hit the Boston area starting in 1721. The records include a minister’s diary held by the New England Historic Genealogical Society and scanned and posted online by Boston’s Congregational Library and Archives. The documents reveal some surprising similarities between how Bostonians coped with smallpox and how we’re navigating the coronavirus pandemic. They show that some people in the 1700s resisted getting inoculated against smallpox — just as some Americans today are skeptical of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines. Smallpox is the only human infectious disease ever to have been completely eradicated.

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