"What did the doctor say it was? Not smallpox, I hope."

Smallpox patient
Public DomainSmallpox patient - Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention'
Smallpox is a contagious viral infection that has historically resulted in huge epidemics and large death tolls. Initial symptoms include fever, chills and muscular aches, quickly succeeded by a lumpy rash that develops into fluid-filled pustules. Fatality rates are high at 30-35 per cent; in some especially pernicious strains, the chances of survival are close to zero. Survivors are left badly scarred and complications can be severe. An act was introduced in 1813 to ensure that the American public had access to the smallpox vaccine but outbreaks continued to occur until the 1950s.