Should We Worry About Smallpox? : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Should We Worry About Smallpox? 10/25/01 Dr. Jeff Daniels

The intentional spread of the anthrax bacillus has thrown the US medical establishment into high gear, higher than the anxiety level of most Americans in reaction to the dozen or so documented cases of (mostly cutaneous or asymptomatic) anthrax.

The CDC in Atlanta organized a medical conference that was televised and broadcast over the internet last week, and most doctors I know, including myself, learned some of the finer details of dealing with an anthrax case or exposure. One of the physicians from the CDC even made the point that I had thought about: we all learned about anthrax in medical school, but probably never would have seen a single case if it hadn't been for recent events. Now we are all becoming experts on the disease.

Fortunately, the outbreaks, intentionally spread, have so far have been relatively limited to a few places and people. That's the nature of the anthrax spores, the relative inefficiency of their spread, and the fact that you really can't catch anthrax from another person.

Unfortunately, there are other infections that terrorists can get their hands on, and the CDC is gearing up to deal with most of them. By far, one of the more feared diseases is smallpox.

Smallpox hasn't occurred in the United States since 1949; the world's last naturally occurring case was in Africa in 1977. When smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, all research stocks of the virus were supposed to be contained at the CDC's Atlanta laboratory and a similar lab in Russia. But the Soviets instead produced smallpox for their bioweapons program in the 1980s, and bioterrorism experts fear some may have spread to terrorist-sponsoring countries.

Even a single case of smallpox would be an international emergency triggering vaccinations initially for dozens of people close to the patient while detectives traced every step the victim had taken for weeks. This is part of the plan that the CDC is formulating and currently putting the final touches on.

There is also the distinct possibility of one day resuming routine vaccinations of Americans against smallpox, inoculations that ended in this country in 1972. The government has 15.4 million doses of smallpox vaccine and hopes to buy an additional 300 million.

Vaccination helped eliminate smallpox decades ago, and a new vaccination program will certainly help prevent a terrorist-induced smallpox epidemic in the future, but the "cost" of that vaccination program may be unacceptable in America. That is because a tiny fraction of people who get vaccinated get very sick, and can even die. When vaccinating several hundred million people, those numbers can add up.

It takes fairly close proximity to catch smallpox. You must be within about six feet of a person suffering the characteristic rash to breathe in the virus, and quickly vaccinating those who live with or work around a patient is protective against catching the disease.

Smallpox symptoms include fever and a pock-like rash all over the body, appearing between seven and 17 days after exposure to the virus. People are contagious from the time the rash appears, particularly in that first week of illness, until the scabs fall off. A single case of smallpox would require an immediate and coordinated public health and medical response to contain the outbreak and prevent further infection.

How good are those vaccinations that we received before 1972? Nobody really knows, but the current thinking is that they probably won't be very effective. I'm sure that experiments will be done, in both previously vaccinated people, and in the laboratory on the immune cells of those who were vaccinated, to see if long ago-induced immunity might come back out and fight off a disease that we thought we would never see again.

Until September 11, 2001, such thoughts were relegated to Clancy novels and movie thrillers. On September 11th, our world changed.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 25, 2001


I sure hope long term immunity works, 'cause I had my small pox vaccination about 65 years ago.

-- Sparky (, October 25, 2001.

Worry about small pox? I say not only no, but hell no. One big reason: even playing with trying to develop a deliverable strain is a deadly undertaking, threatening the lives of those scientists trying to do so, and all their cohorts around them.

I think a small pox terrorist attack is about the last thing we have to worry about.

-- JackW (, October 25, 2001.

I believe these scientists will give their lives for ba’allah. Remember the teliban said they welcome death as just as Americans love life?

-- Rick V (, October 26, 2001.

Who knows how many Russian smallpox bioweapons have gone to terrorists? These weapons would not involve a high exposure risk to those using them.

-- John Littmann (, October 26, 2001.

Fear Mongering, propaganda, social engineering from the press media & government.

A paranoid people are easy to control.

Only 3 way, I can see smallpox attack. By the US, RUSSIA or the UN.

"We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept a New World Order." - David Rockefeller

"Today American's would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order; tomorrow they will be grateful. This is especially true if they were told there was an outside threat from beyond, whether real or "PROMULGATED", that threatened our very existence. "

"It is then that all peoples of the world will plead with world leaders to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well being granted to them by their world government." - Henry Kissinger - Evian, France, May 21, 1992

Life has no guarantee, get use to it. Think for yourself and take responsibility for your own actions. Thats how this country was founded.

my 2˘ awdragon

-- awdragon (, October 26, 2001.

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