EXTINCTION is forever, defenders of endangered species often say, and the loss of an organism from the face of the earth strikes most people as an unfortunate, even tragic, loss—with 1 notable exception.
That exception is the smallpox virus, which was virtually banished (aside from research specimens in 2 laboratories, in the United States and Russia) from the globe in 1977.
In the 2 decades since that singular triumph, public health experts have contemplated campaigns for global eradication of diseases, as well as the potential costs of failed efforts.
Stephenson J. A Farewell to Harms: Experts Debate Global Disease Eradication Efforts. JAMA. 1998;279(12):897-899. doi:10.1001/jama.279.12.897