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Defeating Smallpox

Written by Morgan Kelly



In 1967, D.A. Henderson launched a World Health Organization endeavor to eradicate smallpox, an effort that involved as many as 150,000 workers in 70 nations tracking one of humankind’s deadliest diseases through countries ravaged by floods, famines, and wars. In 1979, two years after the end of that campaign, the virus that had killed many millions—commoners and kings alike since at least the time of the pharaohs—was officially declared the first infectious human disease to be eradicated. This spring, Pitt commemorated the 30th anniversary of smallpox’s elimination and honored Henderson, now a Pitt professor of public health and medicine, with an event to launch his upcoming book,

Smallpox—The Death of a Disease: The Inside Story of Eradicating a Worldwide Killer (Prometheus Books), which chronicles his decade-long fight against smallpox. The event was hosted by Pitt’s newly established Center for Global Health.