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The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations (UN), was established in 1948 as "the directing and coordinating authority on international health work" and is dedicated to advancing health standards throughout the world. The WHO is responsible for distributing information and medical training on various diseases, including smallpox and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), prenatal and pediatric care, nutrition, and hygiene. In addition, the WHO helps with pharmaceutical dissemination, conducts research on bacteria and disease, and also produces scientific journals. All UN member nations have delegates to the WHO's policymaking body--the World Health Assembly.



Smallpox, or Variola, is an infectious disease caused by a virus. This plague has been the cause of millions of deaths before it was essentially eradicated in 1979 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease is characterized by fever, rash, and pus-filled lesions and is often, but not always, fatal. The virus is spread through the inhalation of saliva and nasal discharge.

Immunization has prevented the spread of smallpox in recent decades. The World Health Organization followed every outbreak and contact to the disease starting in 1967, and since 1979 the only reported incident of the disease was when a laboratory worker was infected while working with the virus. To prevent that from happening again, the WHO has supported the destruction of all supplies of the virus except for samples at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, and the Russian State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Koltsovo, Russian Federation, that are used for further research on the disease and vaccine.


Benjamin A. Rubin

Born in New York City in 1917, microbiologist Benjamin A. Rubin was instrumental in the eradication of the most dreaded diseases to mankind--smallpox. Until 1967, smallpox claimed the lives of nearly two million people a year from around the globe. Not only was the smallpox vaccination in short supply, but it was extremely difficult to conduct the vaccinations in undeveloped countries. Rubin was working at Wyeth Laboratories in 1965 when he began experimenting with alternative ways of administering the vaccination. Rubin ground the eyelet of a sewing machine needle into a fork shape. He discovered that enough vaccine would hold in the small space between the tines to inoculate a person with a few jabs. Further refinements to Rubin's fork-shaped needle design yielded the now familiar bifurcated needle which sped vaccinations of all kinds worldwide. In 1980, the World Health Assembly declared smallpox defeated.

Rubin received his early training in biology-chemistry at the College of the City of New York, where he earned his B.S. He continued onto Virginia Polytechnic Institute for a M.S. in biology and in 1947, he received a Ph.D. in microbiology from Yale University. Over the years, Rubin worked for numerous laboratories and colleges. In 1992, he was inducted into The National Inventors Hall of Fame, which was established in 1973 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Associations. Rubin now continues his research as a professor of microbiology and public health at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.


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