Source: The Hindu
In 1977, a 23-year-old cook at a hospital in Somalia who caught smallpox and survived became the last naturally occurring case of the disease. Three years later, in May 1980, the World Health Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the World Health Organisation, declared that “the world and all its people have won freedom from smallpox.” No disease has ever been so instantly recognised or so widely known and feared, wrote D.A. Henderson, the man who led the worldwide eradication effort, in his book about the arduous campaign to immunise people in every part of the globe and its ultimate success. Thirty smallpox-free years later, we need to remember that even in the early 1950s this highly contagious disease was infecting 50 million people worldwide annually, killing up to a third of them in a horrible fashion.
Although smallpox is now seen as a scourge of yesteryear, the terrible virus that caused it is still very much around.