SOURCE: PYXERA GlobalDESCRIPTION:
At the 1959 World Health Assembly, Soviet scientist Victor Zhdanov put forth a radical idea: a global campaign to eradicate smallpox, a disease that first surfaced more than 10,000 years ago and which is estimated to have caused 300–500 million deaths during the 20th century alone. Local and multinational campaigns had shown great promise in defeating the disease across North America and Europe, as well as parts of South America, but a global campaign was an audacious suggestion. Nothing of the sort had ever been attempted. Yet the Soviet Union and the United States, two of the world’s most populous countries, had successfully rid their nations of smallpox. If this was possible, why not take on the world?
In The United States, the Johnson administration recognized the enormous potential of Zhdanov’s idea, and assigned D.A. Henderson from the Centers for Disease Control to lead the U.S. engagement with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government of the U.S.S.R. With the Cold War in full swing, it took nearly eight years from the WHO’s acceptance of Dr. Zhdanov’s resolution to begin coordinated, strategic action. The program formally launched in January 1967, tackling a disease that was still killing 1.5 to 2 million people each year. Just 10 years later, in 1977, the last case of smallpox was recorded. In 1980, the World Health Assembly announced the eradication of the first disease in human history.
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