CDC and the Smallpox Crusade

If you are having trouble viewing this content, please make sure your browser is up-to-date with at least Windows Internet Explorer 9 or the latest Firefox.
Horace G. Ogden

Acknowledgments -- Foreword -- Introduction -- CHAPTER -- 1. The Lines Are drawn -- 2. Preparations -- 3. Victory in Africa -- 4. Domestic policies for smallpox control -- 5. Smallpox conquered -- Epilogue – Bibliography by CDC authors or co-authors.

CDC and the smallpox crusade seeks to chronicle the contributions of one organization, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of the U.S. Public Health Service, to this worldwide triumph It is written while living memories are still fresh, while the stories swapped by veterans of the smallpox campaigns can animate the memoranda already gathering dust in the files.

Its plan is simple. The first chapter is intended to furnish a framework It describes the disease and extracts a few highlights from the rich history of its presumed origins and successive Impacts on the world's cultures. it touches briefly on human efforts over time to understand and combat this deadly enemy Then, it introduces the three agencies principally involved in the smallpox eradication effort the World Health Organization (WHO). CDC, and the U S Agency for International Development (AID), The concluding section of chapter 1 is designed to set the stage by summarizing the smallpox situation as it existed when the eradication program was launched in the mid-1960s.

Chapters 2 and 3 describe in greater detail the smallpox eradication and measles control program in twenty West and Central African countries as it was planned and carried out largely by CDC personnel in collaboration with the national governments, on behalf of WHO, with funding support from AID. The West African campaign receives the most detailed attention, in part because this was the area in which CDC made its greatest initial contribution but also, as will be seen, because in many ways West Africa was the proving ground and turning point of the struggle.

Chapter 4 discusses changes in U.S. domestic policies and public health practices resulting from the changing smallpox situation around the world. Chapter 5 summarizes briefly CDC's participation in the late stages of eradication in Latin America and describes the major campaigns in India and Bangladesh in the early and mid-1970s, leading to the final victory in the war-torn East African countries of Ethiopia and Somalia. It. is interesting to note in passing that the northeastern quadrant of Africa, where the last cases were tracked down, was also the broad region from which, many centuries earlier, smallpox probably launched its devastating marches across Asia, Europe, the remainder of Africa, and ultimately the New World.


U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, 1987


Horace G. Ogden, “CDC and the Smallpox Crusade,” The Global Health Chronicles, accessed March 30, 2017,