Physician who led eradication of smallpox dies at 87

Donald A. Henderson, MD, who led the eradication of smallpox, died Friday in Towson, Md., in hospice after complications from a hip fracture, according to The New York Times. He was 87.

Some of his complications included an infection with antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus, a perilous bacteria he himself had researched and cautioned about, his daughter told The New York Times.

Regarded as one of mankind's greatest public health successes, Dr. Henderson led the World Health Organization's fight against the smallpox virus — which involved outbreak tracers and vaccinators — beginning in 1966. He achieved success incredibly quickly; the last known case of the disease was identified in Somalia in 1977, according to the report.

After smallpox was officially eradicated in 1980, Dr. Henderson served as dean of what is now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and as an advisor on bioterrorism to multiple presidents.

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor awarded in the U.S., in 2002.

Dr. Henderson is survived by his wife, Nana Irene Bragg, his daughter, Leigh Henderson and two sons, David and Douglas Henderson, according to the report.  

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