On This Day…

Smallpox Eradicated

December 9, 1979

A commission of eminent scientists declare that Smallpox had been eradicated. The World Health Assembly would certify its eradication the following May. This was the first time a disease was declared eradicated. The last known case was in Birmingham, England (1978) when the virus escaped from a research lab. The researcher who let it escape committed suicide. It is estimated that smallpox killed 300-500 million people in the 20th century. It was eradicated by a massive vaccination and containment program. The eradication was aided by the facts that humans are the only reservoir for smallpox infection, and that asymptomatic carriers did not exist.