Smallpox was once the most deadly disease in the world. During the 1800s, more than 20 million people got the disease every year. Of those, nearly half died. At the onset of smallpox, people suffered from high fevers, headaches, vomiting, and aching muscles. Yet the worst symptom of all was an intolerable rash that caused irritation on the entire body. Those who survived the disease were often rendered blind or left with gross scars on their face and body.

Today, however, cases of smallpox are very rare due to the work of many countries during the late 1900s. This federation of countries collaborated to completely destroy smallpox. Early in the century, wealthy countries in Europe and North America had developed a substance that made the body immune to smallpox. They had required all their citizens to get this vaccine to counteract the disease. Hence, the people of these countries no longer had to worry about smallpox.

However, many of the needy people in poorer parts of the world still suffered from the disease. Their countries could not afford the vaccine nor supply enough doctors to curb the spread of smallpox.

In 1950, the wealthier countries of the world vowed to free the world of the disease. They pledged to supply the vaccine to any country that could not afford it. Scientists compiled lists of areas where the disease still thrived. Then doctors diagnosed people who had the disease in these areas. They enacted laws that prohibited people with smallpox from mixing with those who did not. In this way, they could not transmit the disease to others. Then the doctors gave all of them the vaccine.

It took a long time and a lot of work. But nearly thirty years later, on December 9, 1979, a group of scientists certified that smallpox had been successfully stopped. The humane efforts of people from all over the world had accomplished a great task.