Bee Bloeser, author
Monday, October 16, 2023,
ASA Koffler Great Room and Zoom
Smallpox rashes were First discovered on Egyptian mummies 3000 years ago. However, it wasn’t until the 4th Century that the earliest description first appeared in writing. The spread was then traced to growth of civilizations and exploration through the expanding trade routes. On average, 3 out of 10 people who got smallpox died and those that survived usually had scars, sometimes severe. Just in the 20th century, before it’s eradication, smallpox caused an estimated 300-500 million deaths worldwide. By comparison, 67 million people worldwide died from COVID.
By the 1800’s a vaccine to prevent the spread of smallpox was begun and the rest is history. By 1952, smallpox was eradicated in North America, by 1953 in Europe, by 1971 in South America, and by 1975 in Asia. Thanks to healthcare workers like Carl Bloeser–with the support of their families– the first main focus of WHO’s worldwide push, the West and Central Africa eradication program saw the last case of smallpox in that region in 1971, and in 1975 the last case in Asia. East Africa, the final frontier for eradication, saw the last case of smallpox by 1977. Bee will tell the story of their campaign in Africa, including living on vigil in a brutal, volatile and erratic dictatorship, more thoroughly detailed in her current book Vaccines & Bayonets: Fighting Smallpox in Africa amid Tribalism, Terror and the Cold War.
She is a retired speech-language pathologist, is a member of Toastmasters International and a member of PEO, a philanthropic education organization that funds education for women and girls. Her historical memoir has been praised by Foreign Policy magazine’s deputy editor and by The Economist’s Midwest correspondent and former bureau chief in Johannesburg and Delhi. A percentage of net proceeds from Vaccines and Bayonets supports water wells for Africa. Following her talk, Bee will sign copies of her book.
Compiled and Edited by Maureen Orr, Academy Village Volunteer
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