F.K. Dar 1, Ratan Singh 2, E.M. Abdulla 1
1-Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Garyounis, Benghazi, S.P.L.A.J. 2-Department of Family and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Garyounis, Benghazi, S.P.L.A.J.
Garyounis Medical Journal Vol. 6, No.1. January 1983:85-94
On 9th December, 1979, a death certificate was signed by the “Global Commission for Certification of Smallpox Eradication”. The deceased was smallpox. Dr. Mahler, the Director-General of World Health Organization designated the day “Smallpox Zero Day”. The demise of the disease in man was duly celebrated with pomp and ceremony from Merca in Somalia, where the last natural human case was recorded, to Geneva in Switzerland where the 33rd World Health Assembly met to make the official declaration of victory over this old and dreaded disease.
The statistics are dreadful enough: Since 1920, there have been over 11 million recorded cases of smallpox worldwide; 87.7% of these occurred before 1959, the year when the Global Smallpox Eradication Programme was launched; Africa and Asia together accounted for over 90% of the cases; the maximum incidence recorded ranged between 10-20 per 100,000 population and fatality varied from less than 1% to 40%.
No single factor was responsible for the global eradicatin of smallpox. Certain predisposing factors related to the characteristics of the virus and the epidemiologicalfeatures of the disease made smallpox vulnerable to attack. The combination of an excellent vaccine and its delivery system, with a concerted international cooperation in mass vaccination and surveillance-containment drive, provided the death blow.
The disease in Man may be dead, but the variola virus lives, as do a number of closely related orthopoxes, some of which, like the monkeypox, produce a disease which is similar to smallpox and with a high mortality in man. The continued existence of stocks of variola in selected research laboratories and of the very closely related orthopoxes in nature may have far reaching and unpredictable consequences now that the universal practice of smallpox vaccination has been discontinued.
Keywords: Smallpox: an Overview of its Global Decline and Eradication, and the Possible Consequences