Smallpox is a virus.The scientific name of the most common and deadly form of the disease is variola major.
Smallpox first appeared in China and the Far East at least 2000 years ago.
The Pharaoh Ramses V died of smallpox in 1157 B.C.
It reached Europe in 710 A.D. and was transferred to America by Hernando Cortez in 1520.Around 3,500,000 Aztecs died in the 2 years following.
Smallpox reached plague proportions in the cities of 18th century Europe and was highly feared.It killed five reigning European monarchs during the
It has now been eradicated after a painstaking vaccination campaign by The World Health Organization.After the disease was eliminated from the world,
routine vaccination against smallpox among the general public was stopped because it was no longer necessary for prevention.The last naturally
occurring outbreak was in Somalia on 26th October 1977.
Though eradicated samples of the disease have been kept by some countries like the USA,Russia,and Great Britain.The last recorded death by smallpox
occured after a laboratory accident in Birmingham,England in 1978.
With the rise in international terrorist threats around the world and in Al Qaeda a group willing to use any means, however deadly, to advance their
cause.Smallpox has been identified as one of the greatest threats facing the people of the early 21st century.
A terrorist attack using the smallpox virus is unlikely yet it is not impossible and some western nations have taken precautions by increasing vaccine
stocks and in the case of Israel actually vaccinating some essential emergency staff as a precaution in the event of an outbreak.
The truth is that nobody knows for sure how many samples of smallpox were taken,exist today,where they are all held,and under what degree of
This is an overview of the threat detailing information that would be of use incase of an outbreak.
Smallpox is extremely contagious.It can spread through person to person contact Smallpox also can be spread through direct contact with infected
bodily fluids or contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing.It has also been spread by virus carried in the air in enclosed settings such as
buildings, buses, and trains. Humans are the only natural hosts of variola. Smallpox is not known to be transmitted by insects or animals.
Historically, smallpox killed about 30% of those infected however, flat and hemorrhagic smallpox usually are fatal.It is thought,however,that since
the eradication of the virus in 1977 any natural immunity that humans may have developed would of disappeared meaning that the mortality rate could be
alot higher,up to 80% in some countries where malnutrition may be a factor.Smallpox is one of the most devastating diseases known to humankind, having
killed between 300 and 500 million people in the 20th century alone.
The incubation period of the disease (time while infected but before symptoms show) averages about 12 to 14 days but can range from 7 to 17 days .The
innitial symptoms are very similar to Influenza.
*high fever (101 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
*head- and backaches
From the onset of these symptoms the infected person can be contagious.
About two or three days after these symptoms begin, a rash appears, mostly on the face, arms, and legs. The rash starts out raised and pink and turns
to pus-filled lesions that begin to crust over early in the second week.
The lesions can appear in the mouth,ears,eyes,throat,and even lungs.Needless to say this is the period when the victim is most vulnerable the young
and elderly being most at risk.
Unlike bacterial infections such as anthrax, smallpox does not respond to antibiotics. There is currently no cure for smallpox.For people suffering
from full-blown smallpox, “supportive therapy”—intravenous fluids, medicines to control fever or pain, and antibiotics for any secondary bacterial
infections—is the best-known course of action.
Scabs separate and fall off after about three or four weeks.Once this happens the victim is no longer contagious.
Smallpox as a terrorist weapon.
Sophisticated biological weapons developed during the Cold War utilised the aerosol qualities of smallpox but it is unlikey that a group like Al Qaeda
would have the technical capacity to create such a weapon.Given their indifference to loss of life on their own side it is far more likely that
infected carriers would sent out similtaneously.From the moment they first became contagious until their symptoms became visible they could mingle in
high density population centres like major cities or in places like airports where the virus could be spread around the world.In this way each carrier
could infect literally thousands of other people before the disease showed any visible symptoms.
If these primary carriers remained undetected then it would be almost two weeks before the secondary cases would be detected and two or three days
after the secondary carriers had been contagious themselves.Each potentially infecting hundreds each in that time.
Reaction by governments around the world would be swift.
*Travel restrictions would be immediate.
*If not done already,frontline emergency staff would be vaccinated.
*It is likely that citizens will be asked to remain at home to prevent further spreading of the disease.
*A form of Martial Law will have to be declared to prevent looting and other social unrest.
How Will A Smallpox Outbreak Effect You.
Not all personel normally deemed essential will be vaccinated.Some services including electricity,gas,water,refuse disposal may be effected.Make sure
that in the event of an outbreak you have supplies of candles, bottled water,and canned food as you may not be allowed to buy these items in
sufficient quantity if there is a curfew.Such a curfew could last as long as four to six weeks.
World Health Organisation Fact Sheet.
UK Government Information
[Edited on 16-3-2004 by John bull 1]
[Edited on 16-3-2004 by John bull 1]