Among biological weapons, smallpox is by far the bad boy of them all. “When the Hernando Cortez arrived in America infecting the Aztec Indian communities in 1520 AD, 35 million Aztecs died during the following two year. In the United States in 1763, Colonel Henry Bouchet gave smallpox-infected blankets to the Native Americans during Pontiac’s Rebellion, killing thousands; Sir Jeffrey Amherst, Commander of the British forces in North America, used the same technique in New England with the same results,” [Bromley, Sutton 4, (p. 72,78), 6]. Smallpox was a monstrous weapon that Europeans used against the North and South American native Indian population. Radical organizations considered as the present day threat, such as bin Laden and Aum Shinrikyo sect in Japan, may someday acquire Smallpox to use as a bioterror weapon, (Preston, 131). Can America ever be ready for a Smallpox outbreak: proper education would be difficult, an antiviral can only happen by chance, and a government response would be haphazard at best; in the event a Smallpox outbreak occurs, hopefully we’ll have an antiviral solution.
Deadly viruses surround the human population always waiting for the right condition to destroy the human race. The average human being may only know about three or four of these major viruses. Scientists have determined which viruses could start a massive epidemic. After the 9/11 incidents, scientists around the world are mainly concentrating on smallpox. In 1979, a team of doctors and health officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) eliminated and collected all known samples of smallpox from the globe. Officially, the smallpox virus exists in only two repositories: in freezers in a building called Corpus 6 at Vector in Siberia, and in a freezer in a building called the Maximum Containment laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.
Smallpox is highly contagious and transmitted through respiratory secretions via direct and indirect contact. Starting with a small skin eruption on the tongue and mouth, which is the most contagious phase of the smallpox rash, then emerging as papules or firm bumps on the skin, which form into sac containing liquids that mature into pustules. The pustules multiply as part of a rash and develop into scabs. After the lesions start on the face, they spread down to the arms and legs, and lastly, end up hands and feet.
Sadly, the prospect of biologic warfare is upon and vaccination against smallpox has begun. For physicians and other health care professionals, the current call to arms means more than rolling up our sleeves for the prick of a bifurcated smallpox-vaccine needle. It means making sensitive decisions for ourselves and giving important education and advice to our patients. After all, we have faced fearful uncertainties before, and we do have wisdom from past experience.
The last naturally occurring smallpox outbreak was in Somalia in 1977 and the last case of smallpox infection in...