How Smallpox Faced A Complete Eradication?


Whenever a particular illness stops its circulation in a particular region, it is considered eliminated from that area. However, if the disease is eliminated from the entire face of the earth, then the phenomenon is called disease eradication.  To ensure both eradication and elimination of the disease, vaccine development is given the highest priority; the next slot in the vaccine researchers’ to-do list is secured by clean and quick vaccine delivery.

The first-ever disease eradication

Thus far, only one disease, smallpox, has been eradicated in 1980. The decades of initiatives taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) led World Health Assembly to declare smallpox disease as eradicated. Prior to its eradication, the long-in-the-tooth disease had claimed 35% lives of the infected people and left many hapless blind or scarred.

The eradication of smallpox was possible by coordinated efforts put in by the WHO and other health organizations. A well-structured surveillance was the key to eradicate smallpox from its root that had spread all over the world. As soon as a new case of smallpox was registered, the health officials were required to identify other such fresh cases in the same region and administer Ring Vaccination.  The final case of smallpox was reported in Somalia (1977).

Why smallpox was simpler to eradicate?

  • Also referred to as variola, smallpox had an obtrusive presence as its patients quickly developed a peculiar form of rashes.
  • Second, the time taken for the symptoms to appear was shorter than other diseases
  • Third, such short duration had helped in quickly administering the vaccination and containing the disease
  • Final nail in the coffin was when the WHO took consistent efforts to introduce immunization chart for variola and train the vaccinators. This step was taken to protect those who were not having lifelong immunity to the disease.

With the complete eradication of variola, many hopes were raised to eliminate other maladies such as malaria, polio, dracunculiasis, to mention but a few.

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