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The Vikings had an early version of the “deadly virus”



(Newser)
“These Vikings just keep making history.” Not only have they settled in North America and have female warriors, they have apparently suffered from an early form of smallpox – a disease that killed hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century. New York Times reports. The now extinct strain in the teeth of Viking remains in Northern Europe, dating from 600 to 1050 AD; which precedes the previous earliest case of 1

000 years. “We already knew that the Vikings were moving around Europe and beyond, and now we know they had smallpox,” study leader Eske Vilerslev of the University of Cambridge told Science Daily. “People traveling the world spread Covid-19 quickly, and probably the Vikings spread smallpox. That’s when they traveled by ship, not by plane.”

The newly discovered strain – taken from remains in Britain, Russia, Norway, Denmark and Sweden – is genetically closer to animal poxviruses such as camel. The study’s authors say it hasn’t become smallpox since the 20th century and may not have been deadly. “Maybe it was a mild illness for a while,” the smallpox specialist wrote in a comment to the study. What does what mean to us? Well, measles viruses are not very similar to coronaviruses, but the thought of a virus becoming more dead is not very reassuring at the age of COVID-19. On the bright side, global vaccination efforts eliminated smallpox by 1980: “Smallpox is the only virus that humans have been able to eradicate,” Wheelerslev told the Courthouse News Service. “It’s an achievement because it was the biggest killer of all known pathogens.” (Read more smallpox stories.)




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