- The doctor, who saved millions of lives by wiping out smallpox, died at the age of 87
- Doctor Donald Henderson led the successful global drive to wipe out smallpox in the 1960s and ’70s
- Henderson led the World Health Organization’s 10-year drive against the illness
The doctor, who saved millions of lives by wiping out smallpox, died at the age of 87 years old.
In an Agence France-Presse that was posted on GMA News Online, it was disclosed that American doctor Donald Henderson, the public health official who led the successful global drive to wipe out smallpox in the 1960s and ’70s, died on Friday, August 19, in Baltimore. The doctor succumbed to complications from a broken hip, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said in a statement.
Henderson “led the World Health Organization’s successful 10-year effort to eradicate smallpox, one of the greatest public health achievements in history,” said Michael Klag, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Smallpox is the only human disease ever to have been eradicated,” Klag noted.
First known as the “pox,” the disease was one of the deadliest in history, killing an estimated 300 million to 500 million people in the 20th century alone. Smallpox inflicted great pain on victims, beginning with fever, nausea and other flu-like symptoms before leading to lesions on the face and body. A third of victims died. Survivors suffered disfigurement and occasionally blindness, it was disclosed.
Heading an army of field workers around the world under an initiative of the WHO, Henderson oversaw the implementation of a systematic vaccination program that focused on isolating outbreaks instead of attempting mass vaccinations. The campaign was declared a success in 1980.
“D.A. Henderson truly changed the world for the better,” the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Tom Inglesby said in a statement. “With all of that, he still took the time to be a mentor to countless young people, and was a great friend. He is truly irreplaceable.”
Henderson is survived by his wife Nana, daughter Leigh, and sons Douglas and David.