In 2011 the World Health Organization (WHO) plans to announce its recommendation regarding the final destruction of all known remaining smallpox virus stockpiles. Smallpox, an ancient human scourge of unparalleled destructive importance throughout most of recorded human history, is believed to have emerged in the Middle East some 6,000–10,000 years ago from either camelpox or the gerbil-specific taterapox. It holds a status as one of the great killers in all human history, having produced the horrific deaths of up to 500 million persons in just the 20th century alone. At first glance, the answer to this conundrum – whether or not smallpox should be forever relegated to the autoclave of extinction – might seem an easy one. Beaten back by the Jenner vaccine first proposed in 1796, smallpox was finally declared eradicated in 1980, in one of the most profound public health achievements in human history. Since that time, WHO has made it generally known that they would like to see the elimination of all remaining variola stockpiles and made the United States and Russia the repository for all remaining stocks. At the 60th Annual World Health Assembly in 2007, the organization postponed the final decision for any recommended destruction deadline until their next meeting in 2011.
- Emerging disease
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