Dead Pool 14th May 2023

In the week where we all preferred to Cha Cha Cha, we also heard that Ricky Gervais is going through the “worst illness of his life.” “I’m not well today,” he wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning. “In fact I’d say I just lived through the worst 8 hours of illness of my life. Severe abdominal pains, vomiting every time I moved, (but only tiny bits of bile), hot sweats and chills, oh, and I really want to know who planted the 12 gravy bombs up my arse.” Let’s hope the 61 year old doesn’t actually get a real illness or he’d be bitching for real. 

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

Rocky IV actor Dolph Lundgren has revealed an eight-year battle with cancer that was considered terminal prior to what he says was a more successful round of treatment. In an interview with the Flying Monkeys, Lundgren says he was first diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2015, information he’s sharing now for the first time. After surgery, he remained symptom-free for about five years but during a doctor visit during a trip to Sweden in 2020 was found to have additional tumours in the kidney and liver areas. At that point, the actor says, he was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer with only 2-3 years to live. He says that at the time he thought, “I’ve had a great life. I’ve lived like five lifetimes in one. So it wasn’t like I felt bitter but I felt sorry for my kids and my fiancé.” Eventually Lundgren sought an additional opinion from oncologist Dr. Alexandra Drakaki of UCLA Medical Center, and was placed on a more recently-developed medicinal treatment. Lundgren says the treatment, which he underwent while filming both The Expendables 4 and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, has proven effective in reducing the size of the tumours by 90%. According to Lundgren, he now needs to have an additional surgery, but he’s optimistic that after the operation he’ll have “no cancer activity.” Dr. Drakaki now hopes Lundgren’s survival rate will be measured in “years” rather than “months.” She continued, “My hope and goal is to try to keep him on this medication as long as possible and just keep getting biopsies as things change within his body to try to identify newer targets for treatment,” she said. Asked about his outlook now, Lundgren says, “You just appreciate being lucky enough to be alive.”

Miriam Margolyes, who played Professor Spout in the second Harry Potter film, recently announced she had been hospitalised after undergoing cardiac surgery. Margolyes, 81, gave fans an update on her health condition in separate Facebook posts. Last Friday, the veteran actor said she was being kept overnight at London’s The Royal Brompton Hospital. Her social media post reportedly read: “Have to stay overnight for Observation in the High Dependency Unit. BORING.” The following day, she informed fans she had undergone a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI), a minimally invasive procedure to replace a narrow aortic valve after it fails to open properly, adding that she would remain at The Royal Brompton “certainly till Sunday”. Alongside a photograph of herself in a hospital gown, Margolyes wrote: “I am growing energy but it’s still not quite me. I am putting this so you know how grateful I am for lovely messages.” She also expressed her desire to return to work, including embarking on a 22-city book tour later this year. The UK tour marks the release of her second book, Oh Miriam! Stories from an Extraordinary Life. Finally, on Monday, Margolyes said she had developed a chest infection and “can’t come home yet”. She added: “Probably tomorrow. But at least I’m resting. Love to all. Thank you for your lovely messages.” 

It’s been one month since Jamie Foxx was hospitalised after suffering a “medical complication”. On Friday his daughter Corinne Foxx revealed that apparently the actor had been out of the hospital “for weeks” after certain media outlets reported that his family were “preparing for the worst”. “Sad to see how the media runs wild,” she wrote on Instagram. “My dad has been out of the hospital for weeks recuperating. In fact, he was playing pickleball yesterday!” Specific details about the 55-year-old Django Unchained star’s illness remain undisclosed. “We wanted to share that my father, Jamie Foxx, experienced a medical complication yesterday,” Corinne, 29, said in a statement posted on social media on 12th  April. “Luckily, due to quick action and great care, he is already on his way to recovery. We know how beloved he is and appreciate your prayers,” she added. “The family asks for privacy during this time.” Conflicting accounts of Foxx’s status emerged in the weeks since he was admitted to hospital. While most reports suggested that the actor was recovering, one source told the Flying Monkeys on Tuesday that his friends and family were “hoping for the best – but preparing for the worst”. Corinne rebuked the Monkeys report. Foxx broke his silence on social media on 3rd May, thanking fans for their support. “Appreciate all the love!!! Feeling blessed,” the actor shared on his Instagram Story. 

On This Day

  • 1796 – Edward Jenner administers the first smallpox inoculation.
  • 1878 – The last witchcraft trial held in the United States begins in Salem, Massachusetts, after Lucretia Brown, an adherent of Christian Science, accused Daniel Spofford of attempting to harm her through his mental powers.
  • 1939 – Lina Medina becomes the youngest confirmed mother in medical history at the age of five.
  • 1973 – Skylab, the United States’ first space station, is launched.


  • 1987 – Rita Hayworth, American actress and dancer (b. 1918).
  • 1998 – Frank Sinatra, American singer and actor (b. 1915).
  • 2015 – B.B. King, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (b. 1925).
  • 2017 – Powers Boothe, American actor (b. 1948).
  • 2019 – Grumpy Cat, American cat and internet meme celebrity (b. 2012).


On the anniversary of the first inoculation against smallpox, I thought we’d have a look at the history of the virus. 

Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest in 2011. The term “smallpox” was first used in England in the 16th century to distinguish the disease from syphilis, which was then known as the “great pox”. 

Smallpox is an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus, a member of the orthopoxvirus family. It was one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity and caused millions of deaths before it was eradicated. It is believed to have existed for at least 4000 years, with the earliest evidence of the disease dating to around 1500 BC in Egyptian mummies.

Early symptoms of smallpox include high fever, fatigue and severe back pain, and less often, abdominal pain and vomiting. Two to three days later the virus produces a characteristic rash with bumps full of a clear liquid, which later fill with pus and finally develop a crust that dries and falls off. The rash begins on the face and hands, then spreads to the rest of the body. Lesions develop in the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth and ulcerate soon after formation.

Smallpox is transmitted from person to person via infective droplets during close contact with infected people who have symptoms of the disease, or in some cases through contaminated clothing and bedding. It has an incubation period of 7–17 days after exposure and only becomes infectious once a fever develops. People remain infectious until the last scabs fall off. Smallpox was fatal in up to 30% of cases. 

The disease historically occurred in outbreaks. In 18th-century Europe, it is estimated that 400,000 people died from the disease per year, and that one-third of all cases of blindness were due to smallpox. Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence. As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year.

The earliest procedure used to prevent smallpox was inoculation with variola minor virus, which likely occurred in India, Africa, and China well before the practice arrived in Europe. The idea that inoculation originated in India has been challenged, as few of the ancient Sanskrit medical texts described the process of inoculation. Accounts of inoculation against smallpox in China can be found as early as the late 10th century, and the procedure was widely practiced by the 16th century, during the Ming dynasty. 

The smallpox vaccine as we know it was created by Edward Jenner in 1796, was the first successful vaccine to be developed. He observed that milkmaids who previously had caught cowpox did not catch smallpox and showed that a similar inoculation could be used to prevent smallpox in other people. 

In 1959, the World Health Organisation announced an audacious goal, the eradication of smallpox. Although no human disease had ever been eradicated, smallpox was a good candidate: it was easily diagnosed, had an effective vaccine and did not live in any other animal host. The effort began slowly, but after a second resolution in 1966, international cooperation grew and the campaign accelerated. Technological innovations such as the freeze-dried vaccine and the bifurcated needle made vaccination more effective and simpler to administer. Initially, health workers conducted mass vaccinations, but over time they switched to a more targeted strategy. Teams would quickly track down new cases, isolate the infected, and vaccinate all of those who may have had contact with the infected person.  

In late 1975, three-year-old Rahima Banu from Bangladesh was the last person in the world to have naturally acquired variola major. She was also the last person in Asia to have active smallpox. She was isolated at home with house guards posted 24 hours a day until she was no longer infectious. 

Janet Parker was the last person to die of smallpox. In 1978, Parker was a medical photographer at England’s Birmingham University Medical School. She worked one floor above the Medical Microbiology Department where staff and students conducted smallpox research.

The global eradication of smallpox was certified, based on intense verification activities, by a commission of eminent scientists on 9th December 1979 and subsequently endorsed by the World Health Assembly on 8th May 1980.

Unbelievably, two live samples of variola major virus remain, one in the United States at the CDC in Atlanta, and one at the Vector Institute in Koltsovo, Russia. Research with the remaining virus samples is tightly controlled, and each research proposal must be approved by the WHO and the World Health Assembly.  The genome of variola major virus was first sequenced in its entirety in the 1990s. The complete coding sequence is publicly available online, in case you amateur scientists fancy a go at making it. 

The WHO currently bans genetic engineering of the variola virus, however the public availability of the variola virus sequence has raised concerns about the possibility of illicit synthesis of infectious virus. 

In 2016, a group synthesised the horsepox virus using publicly available sequence data. The researchers argued that their work would be beneficial to creating a safer and more effective vaccine for smallpox, although an effective vaccine is already available. The horsepox virus had previously seemed to have gone extinct, raising concern about potential revival of variola major and causing other scientists to question their motives. Critics found it especially concerning that the group was able to recreate viable virus in a short time frame with relatively little cost or effort. 

Famous historical figures who contracted smallpox include Lakota Chief Sitting Bull, Pharaoh Ramses V, Peter II of Russia, and Louis XV of France. Prominent families throughout the world often had several people infected by and/or perish from the disease. For example, several relatives of Henry VIII of England survived the disease but were scarred by it. These include his sister Margaret, his wife Anne of Cleves, and his two daughters: Mary I in 1527 and Elizabeth I in 1562. Elizabeth tried to disguise the pockmarks with heavy makeup. Mary, Queen of Scots, contracted the disease as a child but had no visible scarring. 

U.S. Presidents George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln all contracted and recovered from the disease. Washington became infected with smallpox on a visit to Barbados in 1751. Jackson developed the illness after being taken prisoner by the British during the American Revolution, and though he recovered, his brother Robert did not. Lincoln contracted the disease during his presidency, possibly from his son Tad, and was quarantined shortly after giving the Gettysburg address in 1863. 

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin fell ill with smallpox at the age of seven. His face was badly scarred by the disease. He later had photographs retouched to make his pockmarks less apparent. 

So there we are, a quick look at smallpox. We are all exceptionally lucky we don’t have to deal with it nowadays, but given that there are two examples of the virus sill around and that people are generally very stupid, we could easily be facing an outbreak soon enough. 

Last Week’s Birthdays

Cate Blanchett (54), Tim Roth (62), George Lucas (79), Danny Huston (61), Francesca Annis (78), Greg Davies (55), Siân Phillips (90), Martine McCutcheon (47), Robert Pattinson (37), Samantha Morton (46), Harvey Keitel (84), Zoë Wanamaker (74), Iwan Rheon (38), Mark Heap (66), Stephen Colbert (59), Rhea Seehorn (51), Rami Malek (42), Malin Akerman (45), Emilio Estevez (61), Ving Rhames (64), Gabriel Byrne (73), Jason Biggs (45), Shohreh Aghdashloo (71), Tim Blake Nelson (59), Pam Ferris (75), Holly Valance (40), Jadyn Wong (38), Bono (63), Rosario Dawson (44), Grace Gummer (37), Glenda Jackson (87), Billy Joel (74), Stephen Amell (42), Vicky McClure (40), Phyllida Law (91), and David Attenborough (97).

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