Smallpox: A Threat? Essay

1162 words - 5 pages

The dangers of smallpox exposure are considerable, yet can be lessened if viewed appropriately and treated with action rather than fear. Smallpox is a naturally occurring substance, first believed to have muxed "with the human species somewhere between 3,000 and 12,000 years ago" (Richard Preston 150). The results are tragic when a natural outbreak occurs, but would be even more devastating if the outbreak were to be caused by a weaponized strain. We as a world must evaluate the threats and remedy them to the best of our abilities. These threats include where is the virus located, who has it, and what would happen if vaccinations didn't work on a weaponized strain. These are the most pressing issues in the quest to eradicate a potential biological massacre.Variola, the scientific name for smallpox, means "spotted" in Latin. Developing spots in the form of pustules and scabs is just one of the many symptoms that can result from varying strains of the smallpox virus. The virus comes in two distinct forms. These include variola minor and variola major. Variola minor is the less potent of the two subspecies, killing one out of every three unvaccinated individuals infected. In vaccinated individuals, there is only a three percent mortality rate. The more potent form, variola major, neutralizes closer to 50% of its victims. Initial symptoms include, 7 to 17 days after exposure, fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, and severe muscle aches. A rash then results which forms many pustules, predominantly on the face and extremities. If the infection is fatal, the skin will split, causing extreme pain, leading to death. Depending on the person's natural immunities, extreme smallpox may result, which is also known as black pox. Black pox does not cause the skin to pustulate, but instead blood will collect under the skin until it sheets off. In other cases of black pox called hemorrhagic smallpox, unclotted blood will exude from the mouth and other orifices (Preston 151).After the public eradication of naturally occurring smallpox in 1980, samples were officially given to two laboratories. The first repository is in the United Sates, "in a freezer at the headquarters of the federal Centers for Disease Control and prevention, in Atlanta - the CDC. The other official smallpox repository is in a freezer at a Russian virology institute called Vector, also known as the State Research Institute of Virology and Biotechnology" (Presto 152). On January 17, 1989 a team of US inspectors arrived at Vector, and questioned one of the technicians; "You mean you are working with variola major?" (Preston 172). The technician's confirmation shocked the inspectors. When the head of the company, a virologist by the name of Lev Sandakhchiev was questioned, he flippantly denied the allegations presented to him. The fear was now a reality; smallpox was now undergoing weaponization. Reports of other countries such as "Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, Iraq,...

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