1974 smallpox epidemic in India

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The 1974 smallpox epidemic of India was one of the worst smallpox epidemics of 20th century.

Over 15,000 people contracted and died from smallpox between January and May 1974. Most of the deaths occurred in the Indian states of Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal. There were thousands who survived but were disfigured or blinded. India reported 61,482 cases of smallpox to WHO in these five months. India had over 86% of the world's smallpox cases in 1974, primarily due to this epidemic.[1] By 1980, smallpox was certified as being eradicated from the world.

Smallpox was eradicated due to the World Health Organization's smallpox eradication program.[2] This program was formally established in 1958, but because of logistics disagreements between the WHO and the Indian government, did not progress rapidly. Headway only began to take place in India after the reorganization of the WHO in the mid 1960s.[3] Donald Henderson, who was a U.S. Public Health Services Officer stationed in New Delhi, said that "If this interest and concern about ending smallpox can be maintained for the next few months, it's all over. We don't think we're overconfident, but everything looks good. By June of 1975, we hope we'll be finished with smallpox in Asia."[2]


  1. ^ http://www.smallpoxhistory.ucl.ac.uk/
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Bhattacharya, Sanjoy. "A Tale of Two Global Health Programs". National Center For Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. PMC 2696658Freely accessible.