Learning from smallpox: How to eradicate a disease

Smallpox is a disease which is caused by a virus namely – variola virus. It killed more than 300 million people of the entire world population and was rampant during the 19th century.  This is the only disease so far which has been completely eradicated from the world.


Eradication of a disease

Smallpox is a classic example of disease eradication is possible. As smallpox was an infectious disease i.e, it spreads from person to person through contact, sharing the same glasses or drinking the same water. And it was spreading over the world at a faster pace and killing many people. People looked for even various religious customs so that this disease would be eradicated.

How it was eradicated?

Smallpox virus had a weak point which is it can be transmitted from person to person through physical contact only. It cannot be spread through vectors such as mosquitoes. So breaking the bonds between people helped in decreasing smallpox victims and smallpox caused rashes on the bodies of the patients which were unique and can be identified easily. So, people were able to distinguish between normal rashes and smallpox. Smallpox vaccine also played an important role as one dose of this vaccine can prevent the infection for many years which helped many people. Almost 40 million people were saved from this disease and the spread of this disease is also reduced.

Not only those, but even Guinea worm is also a disease which was controlled by usage of simple water filters. Vaccine for polio also reduced the number of cases to 1% in recent times. The polio vaccine is given to children to prevent paralysis of limbs in children.

Though, polio is still on the edge to be eradicated completely like smallpox so that no child will never suffer from polio. These diseases show that working in harmony and globalisation can help in eradicating diseases. However, this is not easy to achieve this. Some of the diseases such as AIDS can’t be eradicated completely and requires much help for this to happen.

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