The last known cases of smallpox occurred in 1978 in England. This was a result of the virus escaping a microbiology research laboratory at the University of Birmingham Medical School. The first victim, Janet Parker, worked as a medical photographer on the floor above the lab. Henry Bedson, who was conducting the research on the smallpox strain that led to Parker’s eventual death, committed suicide by cutting his throat with a pair of scissors. This happened shortly after he was quarantined in his home.
The investigation found that the safety of Bedson’s laboratory had been in question well before the outbreak, though it had somehow passed inspections regardless. As a result, WHO instigated stricter controls over the remaining stocks of smallpox, most of which was destroyed. Smallpox now officially exists in two labs, one in the US and the other in Russia.