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The global eradication of smallpox. Final report of the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication, Geneva, December 1979.
Geneva, Switzerland, WHO, 1980. 122 p. (History of International Public Health No. 4)The Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication met in December 1978 to review the program in detail and to advise on subsequent activities and met again in December 1979 to assess progress and to make the final recommendations that are presented in this report. Additionally, the report contains a summary account of the history of smallpox, the clinical, epidemiological, and virological features of the disease, the efforts to control and eradicate smallpox prior to 1966, and an account of the intensified program during the 1967-79 period. The report describes the procedures used for the certification of eradication along with the findings of 21 different international commissions that visited and reviewed programs in 61 countries. These findings provide the basis for the Commission's conclusion that the global eradication of smallpox has been achieved. The Commission also concluded that there is no evidence that smallpox will return as an endemic disease. The overall development and coordination of the intensified program were carried out by a smallpox unit established at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, which worked closely with WHO staff at regional offices and, through them, with national staff and WHO advisers at the country level. Earlier programs had been based on a mass vaccination strategy. The intensified campaign called for programs designed to vaccinate at least 80% of the population within a 2-3 year period. During this time, reporting systems and surveillance activities were to be developed that would permit detection and elimination of the remaining foci of the disease. Support was sought and obtained from many different governments and agencies. The progression of the eradication program can be divided into 3 phases: the period between 1967-72 when eradication was achieved in most African countries, Indonesia, and South America; the 1973-75 period when major efforts focused on the countries of the Indian subcontinent; and the 1975-77 period when the goal of eradication was realized in the Horn of Africa. Global Commission recommendations for WHO policy in the post-eradication era include: the discontinuation of smallpox vaccination; continuing surveillance of monkey pox in West and Central Africa; supervision of the stocks and use of variola virus in laboratories; a policy of insurance against the return of the disease that includes thorough investigation of reports of suspected smallpox; the maintenance of an international reserve of freeze-dried vaccine under WHO control; and measures designed to ensure that laboratory and epidemiological expertise in human poxvirus infections should not be dissipated.
PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTS. 1980 Sep-Oct; 95(5):422-6.The implications of the eradication of smallpox in the context of epidemiology are presented. Eradication of disease has been conceived since the 1st smallpox vaccination was developed in the 18th century. Since then, attempts to eradicate yellow fever, malaria, yaws and smallpox have been instituted. Most public health professionals have been rightfully skeptical. Indeed, the success with smallpox was fortuitous and achieved only by a narrow margin. It is unlikely that any other disease will be eradicated, lacking the perfect epidemiological characteristics and affordable technology. The key to success with smallpox was the principle of surveillance. This concept has a vigorous developmental history in the discipline of epidemiology, derived from the work of Langmuir and Farr. It involves meticulous data collection, analysis, appropriate action and evaluation. In the case of smallpox, only these techniques permitted the key observations that smallpox vaccination was remarkably durable, and that effective reporting was fundamental for success. The currently popular goal of health for all, through horizontal programs, is contrary to the methods of epidemiology because its objective is vague and meaningless, no specific management structure is envisioned, and no system of surveillance and assessment is in place.