The Smallpox Eradication Saga

An Insider’s View

Isao Arita

The global eradication of dreaded smallpox is a public health achievement of the twentieth century. Isao Arita relates the story behind this successful effort from an insider’s view. This book provides insights from the perspective of an active participant in many of the crucial events of the programme in Geneva, West Africa, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Somalia. The author describes the selfless and tireless work of people from different cultures, races, nationalities and religions, who worked together to achieve a common goal that many thought was impossible.

The Smallpox Eradication Saga covers not only the scientific innovations and management strategies that made eradication possible, but also the actual work, including breaking of rules when necessary to get the job done. Arita also discusses remaining issues in the post-eradication era, such as treatment of the remaining smallpox virus stocks, preparedness for bio-terrorism events and research to sustain a smallpox-free world.

This book is an important addition to the smallpox eradication literature and will be a valuable reference for anyone interested in studying the characteristics of a successful public health, or indeed any other, programme, and how a programme can translate theory and plans into successful field operations and outcomes.

Isao Arita was one of the central figures in the global eradication effort for over 23 years. From 1962 to 1985 he worked with the programme in Africa and then at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva as medical officer and later as chief of the WHO Smallpox Eradication Unit. Arita was an active participant in the eradication effort from the preparatory and intensified phases of the programme through certification, the 1980 World Health Assembly session that declared the world free of smallpox, and the post-eradication stage. He currently participates in WHO initiatives and is an adviser to the WHO Committee on Variola Virus Research and Polio Eradication.