If there is a smallpox, why isn’t there a bigpox or largepox?

We've all heard of smallpox was there a bigpox? The name of the disease smallpox comes from the Latin word for "spotted." The viral infection causes the forming of small pustules (pimple-like bumps filled with pus) on the skin. The term "smallpox" is not to distinguish it from another disease called "bigpox," but there does exist, however, a disease that is refered to as the "great pox."

What is smallpox?

Smallpox is a viral infection caused by the variola virus. Like most viruses, there are different strains of smallpox, which include variola minor and variola major, the latter of which being a little misleading for the name. Why would a “major” strain be called “small?” The name, however, as described above, refers to the small pustules the virus causes on the skin. It’s the same reason why there is a chicken pox, but there is no quail pox or turkey pox.

What is the great pox?

Syphilis. Plain and simple, it's syphilis. This disease, unlike smallpox, is caused by bacteria and is transmitted sexually most of the time. Contrary to what you may be thinking, syphilis does not produce bigger pustules than smallpox. Not necessarily. Of course, it varies by case. No, the reason why syphilis is called “The Great Pox” is because the people wanted to distinguish between the two menacing diseases, and humanity did not disappoint when they decided to call syphilis “The Great Pox” because they were more afraid of it (priorities!).

On the one hand we have smallpox, which at the time resulted fatal in about 30% of cases. It was airborne and highly contagious. You could get infected by breathing it in from a blanket (the British used smallpox-infected blankets to infect Native Americans in the 1760’s). Now, on the other hand we have syphilis, which was not that deadly, not airborne, but it meant people had to be careful about their sexual promiscuity. Clearly the more terrifying disease.

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