Friday, February 6, 2015

The weekly read

Anniversary of Smallpox Eradication
World Health Organization's media centre
June 18, 2010

In 1980, nothing short of a medical miracle occurred. Variola major and Variola minor, the two viruses responsible for causing smallpox, were no longer found wild anywhere on the earth.

Congolese residents receiving a smallpox inoculation
This terrible disease, which was highly contagious and frequently lethal, was first observed in humans 10,000 BCE. After an effective vaccine was developed for the disease by Dr. John Clinch by 1800, the incidence of the disease declined dramatically. So effective was the vaccine that in 1959, a call was made for a global eradication program.

This interview, conducted thirty years after the eradication program's successful conclusion, addresses not only the medical history of the eradication effort, but the communications challenges while the program was in full swing. Without social media, the Internet and only spotty telephone coverage in some of the more remote areas, the program workers were able to use rumor, oral story telling and other non-technical methods of communication to track down and eliminate one of the deadliest diseases know to mankind.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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