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Books, Journals, New Media
March 5, 2003


Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor; adviser for new media, Robert Hogan, MD, San Diego.

JAMA. 2003;289(9):1171-1173. doi:10.1001/jama.289.9.1171-a

The Greatest Killer: Smallpox in History is a republication of Princes and Peasants, published in 1983. The author worked in the World Health Organization's Smallpox Eradication Program and wrote Princes and Peasants while he was assistant director for International Health at the Centers for Disease Control.

Princes and Peasants ended with a description of the successful eradication of smallpox worldwide. The Greatest Killer opens with a new introduction in which Hopkins addresses the possibility that smallpox may be resurrected for use as a weapon of biological terror. Hopkins poses a number of questions, which must remain unanswered for now, about who may have access to known or unknown stockpiles of the virus and whether and how a vulnerable populace should be vaccinated. Given the risks of smallpox vaccination, Hopkins asks, "Would we be justified in causing the deaths of random individuals through an attempt to guard against something that may never happen?"

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