Synopses & Reviews
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. Hendersons personal story of how he led the World Health Organizations 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.
"In his introduction, The Hot Zone author Preston points to the fact that 'in smallpox's last hundred years,' 1879-1979, it killed more people than 'all the wars on the planet during that time.' For more than 50 years, doctor and public health expert Henderson combated the disease, first as director of the Center for Disease Control's Epidemic Intelligence Service, then (from 1965 on) as director of the World Health Organization initiative which would later be known as The Eradication. Henderson provides an overview of the painful disease, 'a monster' that killed roughly a third of the unimmunized it infected. Chillingly, 'variolation,' the direct subcutaneous injection of a patient's pus into a healthy person, was used to spur immunity from before the 10th century. The much safer cowpox vaccination was discovered in 1796 (mandated by Washington for the Continental army); meanwhile, smallpox had decimated the Native American population. Henderson's 'surveillance and containment strategy' would indeed eradicate smallpox globally; India, the last holdout, was rid of it in 1974 by 115,000 health workers, dispatched to villages throughout the country to identify, quarantine, and vaccinate. This inspiring achievement makes a stirring read for medical history fans, though readers of Preston may find it a bit dry." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Dr. Henderson offers the inside story of how he led the World Health Organization's campaign to eradicate smallpox--the only disease in history to have been deliberately eliminated. Foreword by Preston, author of "The Hot Zone."
About the Author
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.