The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes it has all but wiped out the most severe strain of smallpox -- Variola Major -- in Bangladesh.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes it has all but wiped out the most severe strain of smallpox -- Variola Major -- in Bangladesh. Its experts contend they have tracked down the last remaining victim, a small girl, on Bhola Island in the mouth of the Ganges.
SYNOPSIS: A seaplane, carrying officers of the World Health Organisation, swoops low along the western coastline of Bhola Island. In this area, cyclones are a greater perennial danger to life than smallpox has been in recent years.
During the past two years, an army of 12,000 health workers, led by a team of 100 WHO and other international experts, have systematically moved throughout Bangladesh seeking out smallpox victims. They say they had found no new cases until they came across tiny Rahima Banu on Bhola Island.
Experts previously have believed they were on the brink of eradicating smallpox from India and Bangladesh, only to be thwarted by fresh epidemics of the scourge that has killed millions throughout history.
Here, on the left, is Rahima Banu, with her family. She had first been located at a tea stall close by. The doctors made this visit only a few days before a nine-member international commission was due, on 14 December, to decide whether Bangladesh could be formally declared free from smallpox.
The medical team received a report that a baby in a nearby village had come down with what was thought to be smallpox. A swift diagnosis showed that the baby was indeed suffering, but from something far less deadly.......chickenpox.