Smallpox eradication in Bangladesh, 1972-1976.


Rahima Banu, the world's last endemic case of severe smallpox, Variola Major, developed rash on October 16, 1975 on Bhola Island, Bangladesh. Achieving eradication in a country destroyed by war challenged the achievement of smallpox eradication. Between January 1, 1972 and December 31, 1975, 225,000 smallpox cases and 45,000 smallpox deaths occurred. Adapting the global smallpox eradication strategies of surveillance, the detection of smallpox cases, and containment, the interruption of smallpox transmission, utilized progress toward three objectives to monitor performance: (1) surveillance - the percent of smallpox infected villages detected within 14 days of the first case of rash, (2) knowledge of the reward - public knowledge of the current amount of the reward for reporting smallpox, and (3) containment - the percent of infected villages interrupting smallpox transmission within 14 days of detection. Failures to achieve these objectives led to the identification and implementation of improved strategies that eventually achieved eradication. Essential to this success was a tripartite partnership of the citizens of Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Ministry of Health, its field staff, and staff and resources mobilized by the World Health Organization.

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