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Senior Environmental Health Scientist Vince Radke will speak on “Smallpox: Eradicating the World’s Deadliest Disease – A Personal Experience” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, in East Central University’s Stanley Wagner Ballroom of the Memorial Student Union.

The event is free and open to the public and is being co-sponsored by ECU’s Environmental Health Science Club and Tri-Beta Biology Club. Refreshments will be served.

Radke, who works at the National Center for Environmental Health for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will talk about the challenges he faced to bring prevention activities to some of the most remote parts of Africa, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Bangladesh, without the use of cell phones and computers.

Radke graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in biology and was recruited to join the World Health Organization in its smallpox eradication efforts.

Smallpox entered into the human population between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago. Pharaoh Ramses V is believed to die from smallpox in 1157 B.C. His mummified body was recovered in 1898. Smallpox may have also caused the Athens Plague that killed Pericles.

It is smallpox, that when introduced into the new world, contributed to a wave of death that wiped out tens of thousands Native Americans from South America to Alaska. There is evidence that smallpox was used as a biological weapon during the French and Indian War.

It is estimated that 300-500 million died from smallpox during the 20th century.

During the smallpox eradication program which lasted from 1966-1980, Ethiopia was a focal point where conditions were particularly difficult due to the lack of roads, civil war, famine and refugees. It was in this area where Radke, an officer in the U.S. Peace Corp, did his work.

Smallpox was officially considered to be eradicated in 1980 by the World Health Organization and it is believed that samples of the smallpox virus exist in a frozen state in two locations – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Institute (VECTOR) in Koltsovo, Russia.

Even though smallpox has been declared eradicated, the U.S. Military provides as many as 15,000 immunizations to its personnel per month. The U.S. Federal Government maintains stockpiles of several vaccines, including those for smallpox.

For more information on the event contact Dr. Pat Bohan, professor in the Environmental Health Science Department, at or 580-559-5658.



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