Course # DL-950: Smallpox

by Helen Sowers, MA, CLS - California State University, East Bay (Retired)

Approved for 2.0 CE
Level of Difficulty: Basic


Smallpox, once called “The most terrible of all the ministers of death” (Macaulay) was declared eradicated in 1980 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The last case of person to person transmission had occurred in Oct., 1977. However, stocks of the smallpox virus were still held by several countries. By the mid 1980s only the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Ivanovsky Institute of Virology in Moscow still had smallpox stock. Who would have imagined that smallpox now is a bioweapon threat? How has this terrible specter come about?

In this course we will look at the:

  • causative agent and disease
  • history
  • era of vaccination
  • eradication
  • re-emergence as a biowarfare threat
  • present day debate about vaccination


After studying this course the participant will be able to:

  • Describe the variola virus
  • List the symptoms of smallpox
  • Outline the history of smallpox
  • Compare variolation to vaccination
  • Describe the vaccinia virus and the present-day vaccination procedure
  • Summarize the eradication of smallpox
  • State the Soviet smallpox weaponization program and its impact on the present day world situation
  • List the complications of vaccination
  • State the pros and cons of the U.S. vaccination program


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