cow·​pox | \ ˈkau̇-ˌpäks How to pronounce cowpox (audio) \

Definition of cowpox

: a mild eruptive disease of the cow that is caused by a poxvirus (species Cowpox virus of the genus Orthopoxvirus) and that when communicated to humans protects against smallpox

Examples of cowpox in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Many viruses that cause disease in humans can also infect animals — think of Jenner’s cowpox. New York Times, "How Humanity Gave Itself an Extra Life," 27 Apr. 2021 In the late 18th century, British physician Edward Jenner inoculated a young boy with cowpox virus and then exposed him to smallpox. Siladitya Ray, Forbes, "Newly Launched U.K. Trial Will Purposely Reinfect Participants With Covid To Test Whether People Can Catch It Again," 19 Apr. 2021 In the late 1700s, British doctor Edward Jenner applied material from cowpox and smallpox lesions to children and adults and recorded the reactions. Jenny Strasburg, WSJ, "Covid-19 ‘Challenge Trial’ Will Purposely Reinfect Adults," 18 Apr. 2021 Because cowpox was a milder disease, Jenner suggested this was a safer way to protect people from smallpox than the existing technique, known as inoculation or variolation. Tom Standage, The Economist, "Send for the orphans: how the smallpox vaccine crossed the globe," 8 Apr. 2021 The initial challenge faced by the man in charge of this expedition, Francisco Balmis, was how to get viable cowpox across the ocean. The Economist, "A nucleic-acid revolution Novel vaccines have performed remarkably quickly and well," 23 Mar. 2021 The fight against smallpox inspired early inoculation efforts and led to English physician Edward Jenner’s cowpox vaccine against smallpox in 1796. Stacey Mckenna, Scientific American, "Vaccines Need Not Completely Stop COVID Transmission to Curb the Pandemic," 18 Jan. 2021 In 1796, English surgeon Edward Jenner tested the world’s first vaccine by exposing his gardener’s 8-year-old son to cowpox and then smallpox. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "A Brief History of Human Challenge Trials," 16 Dec. 2020 Raging infectious smallpox outbreaks killed nearly 400,000 people each year in Europe during the 1700s, until physicians noticed that milkmaids who had been infected with cowpox seemed to be immune to the outbreaks. Jill Foster, Star Tribune, "Some answers to common COVID-19 vaccine questions," 13 Jan. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cowpox.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cowpox

1798, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cowpox.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for cowpox


cow·​pox | \ ˈkau̇-ˌpäks How to pronounce cowpox (audio) \

Medical Definition of cowpox

: a mild eruptive disease of the cow that is caused by a poxvirus of the genus Orthopoxvirus (species Cowpox virus) and that when communicated to humans protects against smallpox

called also variola vaccinia

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