1977- Last case of smallpox discovered

October 26, 2022

Smallpox is a deadly disease that leaves its victims full of painful pustules along the head, trunk, and legs. There was a time when about 3 out of every 10 people who contracted the disease died, and those who survived still risked permanent scars and blindness. The disease was so prevalent that experts believe that smallpox killed over 300 million people in the 20th century.  

However, after a global effort that lasted more than a decade, the naturally occurring smallpox virus was eradicated.

The official global campaign to rid the planet of the virus that causes smallpox started in vain in the mid-sixties. The World Health Assembly and other health and humanitarian organizations began eradicating in the wake of 15 million cases and 2 million deaths from smallpox in 1967. Those who survived the infection were left with lifetime physical and emotional scars. The infection causes bodily sores that can cover large areas of skin and can lead to blindness because facial sores are common. The sores heal with a distinct pit in the middle, which gives the infection the name smallpox.

The disease was declared eradicated from the globe on May 8, 1980.

The Last Case of Smallpox

Three-year-old Rahima Banu was deemed the last person to have naturally acquired the smallpox variola major in 1975. Her diagnosis kickstarted an aggressive vaccine campaign for all the houses within a 1.5 mile radius of her home. She survived the disease.

On October 12, 1977, Ali Maow Maalin was the last person to contract the variola minor after riding with two smallpox patients from the hospital. He made a full recovery.  

The last official case of smallpox was identified in an English woman named Janet Parker. She was a medical photographer and worked on the floor above a research lab that had been studying smallpox. She died of the disease on September 11, 1978, after mysteriously contracting the disease from a research lab. Her death led to a handful of unfortunate deaths, although the disease itself was eradicated once again with her passing.

4 Comments

  1. Bob Bauer

    A businessman’s club “Rotary International” is making progress to eliminate Polio, worldwide.

    Reply
  2. Dean T Oakie

    So sad!
    Wouldn’t it be great if we could read “Last case of Cancer was in the United States” Shortly thereafter it was eradicated!

    Reply
  3. Linda Magruder

    Shingles comes from the virus so how can you say it’s eradicated. I have shingles all the time with the same sore. Believe me, it’s still around!

    Reply
  4. rose palmer

    It is still here and kept in labs around the world just like polio, flu virus, and many, more.

    Reply

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