Smallpox is one of our success stories; one of those stories that fans of medical history (there are dozens of us) will be intimately familiar with. For everyone else: if you've ever Googled the origins of vaccination you have probably heard the story involving Edward Jenner, cowmaids, and a little bit of human experimentation.
On first glance I thought I had misread. Humankind eradicated circulating smallpox; it is not one of the infectious diseases that we ought to fear anymore, which is why this headline was so surprising. On further reading, however, it becomes very clear why something this is necessary. We no longer vaccinate against smallpox because we don't need to - but if smallpox were to circulate again, without any available treatment, deaths would follow.
This article serves to highlight the important work being done by infectious disease researchers all over the world. It is not always, or only, the obvious culprits we should worry about. It is vital that we continue to learn all we can about the various other microscopic life forms that share this planet with us.
While circulating smallpox is no longer a threat, there are concerns that the virus could be used to threaten health and safety through bioterrorism. Two heavily-guarded stores of the smallpox virus still exist — one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and the other in Russia. Terrorism experts, however, fear that there may be other sources of the smallpox virus, or that a terrorist lab or individual could use gene editing to recreate it. Given that smallpox vaccination was halted after 1980, most people under the age of 40 are unprotected against the disease... Smallpox kills almost a third of people who are infected with it, and infants, pregnant women and anyone with HIV or immunosuppressive condition are particularly at risk.