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You as doctors will never see a case of smallpox- this is very different than in your great grandfather’s era. Clinicians worked together with public health workers and global health scientists to eradicate one of the most deadly diseases know to man. We can continue the success of smallpox if we work together on other local problems, we can have an enormous global impact.
The history of the rise and fall of smallpox is a success story for "modern“ clinicians and public health alike. Millions of people died in Europe and Mexico as a result of widespread smallpox epidemics. The fall of smallpox began with the realization that survivors of the disease were immune for the rest of their lives. This led to the practice of variolation - a process of exposing a healthy person to infected material from a person with Smallpox in the hopes of producing a mild disease that provided immunity from further infection.
The next step towards the eradication of smallpox occurred with the observation by English physician, Edward Jenner, that milkmaids who developed cowpox, a less serious disease, did not develop the deadly smallpox. In 1796, Jenner took the fluid from a cowpox pustule on a dairymaid's hand and inoculated an 8-year-old boy. Six weeks later, he exposed the boy to smallpox, and the boy did not develop any symptoms. Jenner coined the term "vaccine" from the word "vaca" which means "cow" in Latin.
His work was initially criticized, but it soon was rapidly accepted and adopted. By 1800, about 100,000 people had been vaccinated worldwide. In 1967, the World Health Organization (WHO) started a worldwide campaign to eradicate smallpox. This goal was accomplished in 10 years due in a large part to massive vaccination efforts. The last endemic case of smallpox occurred in Somalia in 1977. On May 8, 1980, the World Health Assembly declared the world free of smallpox.
Global health research and information sharing played a very important role in the eradication of smallpox. As the result of this global effort and research collaboration of global clinicians, medical students today is not seeing any cases of smallpox.
For more information about Dr. Edward Jenner, visit Wikipedia