Big Pox, Smallpox, No Pox

Thursday, 17 August, 2000

The Museum of Human Disease at UNSW presents 'The Big Pox, Smallpox and No Pox'. This exhibition looks at three diseases with a long history: syphilis, smallpox and tuberculosis, showing how the prevalence of diseases can change.

Smallpox, once a killer disease that spread in epidemics because of its contagious nature, caused about 10 to 15 million cases of the disease each year, with more than two million deaths. In Australia, smallpox arrived with the First Fleet and quickly spread among the Aboriginal people, resulting in a large number of deaths.

After worldwide intensive vaccination campaigns, smallpox was eradicated with the development of an effective vaccine and the World Health Organisation marked its disappearance from the planet. Even though the World Health Organisation plans to destroy stocks of the smallpox vaccine, possibly in 2002, there should not be concern there won't be any vaccine left.

Syphilis, once common, is currently at a low level in Australia. Tuberculosis, the subject of widespread prevention campaigns, is on the increase through AIDS, immigration and the emergence of strains resistant to medication.

The exhibition emphasises the importance of advances in disease treatment and control. It will enable people to get an understanding of advances in medicine, medical research and the sacrifices and long periods of waiting involved in producing new, effective and safe treatments.

The exhibition includes specimens of diseased body parts and equipment used in the treatment of the three diseases, such as an artificial pneumothorax that deliberately forces air into the pleural cavity, which collapses the lung and allowing tuberculous cavity areas to heal. The 'Big Pox, Smallpox and No Pox' exhibition continues until the end of the year.

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