Abstract Smallpox is unique among infectious diseases in the degree to which it devastated human populations, its long history of control interventions, and the fact that it has been successfully eradicated. Mortality from smallpox in London, England was carefully documented, weekly, for nearly 300 years, providing a rare and valuable source for the study of ecology and evolution of infectious disease. We describe and analyze smallpox mortality in London from 1664 to 1930. We digitized the weekly records published in the London Bills of Mortality (LBoM) and the Registrar General’s Weekly Returns (RGWRs). We annotated the resulting time series with a sequence of historical events that might have influenced smallpox dynamics in London. We present a spectral analysis that reveals how periodicities in reported smallpox mortality changed over decades and centuries; many of these changes in epidemic patterns are correlated with changes in control interventions and public health policies. We also examine how the seasonality of reported smallpox mortality changed from the 17th to 20th centuries in London.


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Citation: Krylova O, Earn DJD (2020) Patterns of smallpox mortality in London, England, over three centuries. PLoS Biol 18(12): e3000506. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000506