This Day in History: Smallpox Disease Certified as Eradicated (December 9th, 1979)

By: Sean Sporman
By: Sean Sporman

It was once a deadly disease known for its blisters that could often lead to scarring, but in 1979, the disease known as smallpox was officially declared to be eradicated.

Also known as Variola Major or Minor (major being the more deadly form of the disease), it dates back at least thousands of years. It was named smallpox centuries ago to distinguish it from syphillis.

Common symptoms of the disease include major blisters, that can lead to scarring. It can also lead to headaches and gastrointestinal difficulties.

As late as the 1960s, the disease was responsible for millions of deaths a year all across the world. Vaccinations became commonly available around that time, leading to the death rate slowly dropping.

The last natural reported case of smallpox was noted in October of 1977, although a pair of researchers would contract the disease a year later.

A document was signed on December 9th, 1979 by members of a commission based around eradicating the disease that it had indeed been eliminated.

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