Oct 9, 2020 - What’s The Tech Transformation TCS CEO Rajesh Gopinathan Is Talking About

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What can smallpox teach us about how we’ve managed COVID-19?

- Smallpox killed an estimated 300 million people in the 20th century alone.
- In 1980, smallpox was the first disease to be officially eradicated.
- Lessons from dealing with past pandemics apply to COVID-19.

For many global health decision-makers, COVID-19 has come to symbolize a failure to apply lessons from past experiences with infectious diseases and raised pressing new questions to be addressed ahead of the next pandemic.

I had the honor of being involved in the campaign to eradicate smallpox, a devastating disease whose historical names - pox, speckled monster and red plague - hint more clearly at the pain and suffering it caused hundreds of millions of people over centuries.

After a decades-long fight to prevent transmission and inoculate people the world over, the last known case of Variola major was diagnosed in a three-year-old Bangladeshi girl named Rahima Banu, and the last case of Variola minor in October 1977, in Somalia. The World Health Organization, which estimates the disease killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone, declared in 1980 that it was the first - and so far only - human disease to be eradicated globally.

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