The Inside Story of Eradicating a Worldwide Killer
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant Recipient
Foreword by Richard Preston, author of The Demon in the Freezer and The Hot Zone
"There has been no greater medical - or humanitarian - miracle in modern times than the eradication of smallpox...Now, for the first time, we learn the inside story from D. A. Henderson, the legendary public health official who led the global effort that brought this miracle about. Smallpox - The Death of a Disease is more than a riveting account of the day-to-day struggle for international cooperation in a divided world; it also offers a winning blueprint for the great medical challenges to come."
Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in History for Polio: An American Story
"Outstanding! What a great read. D.A. Henderson pulls no punches as he tells the inside story of the global eradication of smallpox. He and his WHO team faced a formidable array of obstacles, frustrations, and outright disasters in their decade-long struggle; any one of a hundred of which could have doomed the effort to failure. Whilst the achievement was - in the end - glorious, in its day-to-day execution it was anything but.... The passion, commitment, and raw determination shine through. THIS is the heroic stuff of true public health leadership!"
DONALD S. BURKE, MD
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Jonas Salk Chair in Global Health
University of Pittsburgh
For more than 3000 years, hundreds of millions of people have died or been left permanently scarred or blind by the relentless, incurable disease called smallpox. In 1967, Dr. D.A. Henderson became director of a worldwide campaign to eliminate this disease from the face of the earth.
This spellbinding book is Dr. Henderson’s personal story of how he led the World Health Organization’s campaign to eradicate smallpox—the only disease in history to have been deliberately eliminated. Some have called this feat “the greatest scientific and humanitarian achievement of the past century.”
In a lively, engrossing narrative, Dr. Henderson makes it clear that the gargantuan international effort involved more than straightforward mass vaccination. He and his staff had to cope with civil wars, floods, impassable roads, and refugees as well as formidable bureaucratic and cultural obstacles, shortages of local health personnel and meager budgets. Countries across the world joined in the effort; the United States and the Soviet Union worked together through the darkest cold war days; and professionals from more than 70 nations served as WHO field staff. On October 26, 1976, the last case of smallpox occurred. The disease that annually had killed two million people or more had been vanquished–and in just over ten years.
The story did not end there. Dr. Henderson recounts in vivid detail the continuing struggle over whether to destroy the remaining virus in the two laboratories still that held it. Then came the startling discovery that the Soviet Union had been experimenting with smallpox virus as a biological weapon and producing it in large quantities. The threat of its possible use by a rogue nation or a terrorist has had to be taken seriously and Dr. Henderson has been a central figure in plans for coping with it.
New methods for mass smallpox vaccination were so successful that he sought to expand the program of smallpox immunization to include polio, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus vaccines. That program now reaches more than four out of five children in the world and is eradicating poliomyelitis.
This unique book is to be treasured—a personal and true story that proves that through cooperation and perseverance the most daunting of obstacles can be overcome.
MORE PRAISE FOR SMALLPOX - THE DEATH OF A DISEASE
"D.A. Henderson has laid out in detail the extraordinary story of a monumental accomplishment in epidemiologic practice and international public health diplomacy. His account is clear, comprehensive, and definitive, and comes from the most authoritative source possible. He also includes a thorough and objective consideration of two residual and vexing questions: what to do with the remaining stores of active smallpox virus, and how to approach population immunization issues around the potential use of the virus in biological attacks. The lessons from smallpox are all here, presented by the primary architect of its eradication."
JEREMIAH A. BARONDESS, MD
New York Academy of Medicine
"Thorough, balanced and well-crafted, Smallpox - The Death of a Disease is the story of one of humankind's greatest achievements. The success of the eradication campaign is a testament to the difference the global public health community can make when it truly comes together for a common purpose. Whether one speaks of HIV/AIDS or Neglected Tropical Diseases, the solution lies in allies and adversaries working as one to alleviate suffering and save lives. This is the lesson to be drawn from Dr. Henderson's excellent book."
TOMMY G. THOMPSON
Secretary of Health and Human Services (2001-2005)
Governor of Wisconsin (1987-2001)
Pages: 334 (includes color photos)
Shipping Weight: 2lbs
D. A. Henderson, MD is currently professor of medicine and public health at the University of Pittsburgh and a distinguished scholar at the Center for Biosecurity in Baltimore. He is a professor and former dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He served as Life Sciences Adviser to President G. H. W. Bush and was the first director of the newly created Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness in the Department of Health and Human Services. He is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science plus many other awards. He has received the Japan Prize and has been knighted by the King of Thailand.