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Medical News & Perspectives
March 25, 1998

A Farewell to Harms: Experts Debate Global Disease Eradication Efforts

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JAMA. 1998;279(12):897-899. doi:10.1001/jama.279.12.897

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.

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