Bioterrorist Attacks In The United States

1391 words - 6 pages

There has been much publicity about the threat of bioterrorist attacks in the United States. Usually, the agent cited as the most likely to be used is the smallpox virus. The federal government has recommended that only certain public health and health care workers be vaccinated. If a major outbreak of smallpox were to occur however, the country would need to rely on more than just public health and health care workers.Instead, members of all critical areas of public service, such as police officers and fire/rescue personnel would be needed and so, they too, should be vaccinated.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published a list of disease that are of the highest concern as bioterrorism agents. Each agent has one or more of the following characteristics: it can be easily spread from person to person, it can cause high mortality rate, it can cause public panic and fear, or it can require special action for public health preparedness. Topping this list of these possible biological threats is the smallpox virus. Humans have faced the threat of smallpox for thousands of years. According to historians, smallpox first developed as a disease among people in ancient Egypt, sometime before 1500 B.C. From there it most likely traveled eastward along the trade routes to Persia and India. By A.D. 580-581, a fatal disease closely resembling smallpox was sweeping across northern Italy and southern France. The spread of smallpox continued and an epidemic of the disease swept through western Europe during the 1300s. The virus, unimpeded, was rampant in Europe during the 18th century and approximately 60 million people died as a result. When Europeans began their explorations in the New World, smallpox traveled with them. The disease was new in the Americas, and the native inhabitants, having no immunity, were decimated.An outbreak in New York City in 1947 was smallpox's first major strike against the United States in the 20th century. Quick thinking city officials ordered the entire population of the city to be vaccinated, and a potentially catastrophic epidemic was prevented. The threat of a deadly epidemic, however, spurred the scientific community to action. Between 1967 and 1977 a global vaccination campaign involving a staff of 150,000 people and led by the World Health Organization accomplished the extirpation of the disease. In 1980 smallpox was officially declared eradicated and all vaccination programs were stopped. While the virus was eradicated in the world population, it was not completely destroyed. Many countries kept the smallpox virus alive in laboratories for research purposes.In 1976, the World Health Organization requested that 75 labs in several countries that retained stocks of smallpox virus for research destroy or transfer the stocks to official repositories in United States and Soviet Union. South Africa was last country to destroy its virus stocks in December 1983. At that time the smallpox virus stocks were thought to...

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