The Continued Life of a Dead Virus

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In the complex world of global pandemic control, smallpox is the foremost medical success story, the only human disease ever eliminated from the natural world. For public health officials, smallpox’s 1977 eradication has become an inspirational touchstone for the elimination of other diseases such as polio, guinea worm disease, measles, and malaria. Yet the continued existence of live smallpox samples is the subject of intense debate and demonstrates that global health issues are neither isolated from political and security concerns nor can always be resolved quickly or easily.

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The Continued Life of a Dead Virus