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African Smallpox Idol

Photo: Carved wooden figure of Nigerian god of Smallpox
The Yoruba people of Nigeria hoped to avoid infection by worshipping Sopona, the god of smallpox. Scientists think smallpox may have originated in Africa about 3,000 years ago. If they're right, then Africa is where smallpox was born and where it died. The worldwide eradication effort cornered the disease in the Horn of Africa in 1977, and the last natural case occurred in Somalia that year.
Photograph by Victor R. Boswell Jr.

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