Smallpox Viruses Essay

2189 words - 9 pages

For approximately three-thousand years, smallpox has ravaged and plagued the four corners of the globe. In fact, in the 17 th and 18 th centuries, it was claimed to be the most infectious disease in the West, with an astounding 90% mortality rate in America. It wasn't until 1796, with English surgeon Edward Jenner's smallpox vaccination, that the world saw relief from this devastating virus. However, even with this inoculation in use, the world continued to witness death from both the virus and the vaccine. In the year 1966, it was estimated that 10-15 million infected citizens world wide had passed away from smallpox that year alone ( “History” 12). As a result of these devastating numbers, in the following year, 1967, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) created a program to eradicate the smallpox virus. Ten years later, in 1977, the estimated 10-15 million cases had dwindled down to one; a man in Somalia. Three years later, W.H.O. officially announced that smallpox had been eradicated, leaving the only remaining virus cultures stored and guarded in laboratories in Russia and the United States. Inoculations ceased, smallpox epidemics were non-existent, and the virus was no longer a concern. In order to ensure complete eradication of this deadly virus, the W.H.O. insisted that the remaining smallpox cultures be destroyed by 1999 ( “Smallpox Eradication” 2). However, despite the W.H.O.'s recommendation, the remaining cultures continue to be contained and protected to this day, five years after the suggested date of elimination.

As a direct result, a world-wide debate has raged on for nearly the past decade posing the question of smallpox eradication. If small pox were to be eradicated as originally suggested, the safe and only remaining known cultures would be wiped out. However, not knowing what countries may illegally hold this virus, the world as a whole would be vulnerable to bioterrorist attacks using smallpox. Lacking the virus to create inoculations, it will be virtually impossible to vaccinate the public or quarantine an outbreak. Likewise, if the virus cultures are kept, there is a possibility that enemies could obtain it to use against other countries at their leisure. However, because it is impossible to identify countries that are harboring the virus in order to take action to eradicate it, eliminating the only protection the world has against the virus would be a lethal mistake. Therefore, smallpox should not be eradicated because it would be impossible to completely eliminate, and it could aid in further research of other difficult diseases and a safer vaccination.

Being a highly contagious, deadly and airborne virus, it would be virtually impossible to completely eradicate smallpox. Peter Jahrling, the scientist that discovered the deadly Ebola-Reston virus, once stated, “If you really believe there's a bioterrorist threat out there, then you can't get rid of smallpox. If smallpox is outlawed, only outlaws will have...

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