Only a few truly know what the small scar on the upper left arm means…


Before the 1970s, a significant percentage of people received a smallpox vaccination, which resulted in a characteristic small, circular scar on their upper arm.

This vaccination, containing a live vaccinia virus, was administered to stimulate an immune response that would protect people from the dangerous variola virus, which causes smallpox.

The vaccination process involved dipping a bifurcated needle into the vaccine solution and inserting it multiple times into the person’s arm.

With each amount of needle penetration, a small amount of the vaccine would be injected under the skin, leading to the formation of blisters at the injection site. Within a few weeks, the blisters would crust over and heal, leaving behind a visible circular scar.

The injection site would expand shortly after the dose was administered and remain so for about 6 to 8 hours afterward.

This swelling would subside, and the site would appear normal until 6 to 8 weeks later when a bump would develop, resembling a mosquito bite.

This bump would gradually enlarge, forming a nodule that would eventually burst and release fluid to turn into an ulcer.

A permanent scar would form during the ulcer’s healing phase, signaling the end of a two- to five-week cycle.

In certain situations, however, the ulcer formation and healing process could occur again or three times, resulting in numerous scars.

Smallpox was essentially eliminated in the majority of the Western world after the early 1970s.

As a result, smallpox vaccinations were completely discontinued in the 1980s when it was judged that the variola virus had been eradicated from the human population.

The small scar on the upper left arm thus serves as a historical reminder of a time when smallpox was a serious concern, and vaccination was a crucial tool in the fight against the disease.

Although smallpox no longer poses a threat to public health in the modern world, these scars remain striking reminders of a bygone era of public health precautions.

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