The Use Of Variola Major In Bioterrorism

1240 words - 5 pages

Variola major: its symptoms and the possibilities of its use in bioterrorism

Smallpox is a virus that was pronounced eradicated in 1990 by the World Health Organization (WHO). Prior to its elimination through the coordinated efforts of several international agencies, it was considered one of the most dangerous threats to the prolonged existence of the human race. Its effects, especially those of the hemorrhagic strain, are comparable to those of such agents as the Zaire Ebola virus, Lassa hemorrhagic fever, and Marburg virus.
EPIDEMIOLOGY
Smallpox (Variola major) spreads through either direct physical contact or prolonged proximity to an infected individual. The disease begins in the lungs, spreading from there to the rest of the body.
Men and women are equally susceptible to the disease, as are all ethnicities. Of those who came in contact with the disease, few survived. The mortality rates are these:
Discrete ordinary smallpox: 34%
Confluent ordinary smallpox: 59%
Hemorrhagic smallpox: 94%
Smallpox was known to nearly wipe out entire populations, and often decimated communities, cities, and countries.
POSSIBLE BIOWARFARE USES
FIRST USE
The first recorded use of smallpox as a biological weapon was in 1756. Sir Jeffrey Amherst and other members of the British colonial army gave blankets that had previously belonged to smallpox victims to American Indians, causing them and their tribes to contract the disease previously unknown to them. In some areas, more than 50% of the population perished.
WORLD WAR II
During the second world war, the Axis decided to begin the usage of biological weapons in order to assure that the war went in their favor. This task was assigned to Japanese Military Unit 731, which recruited numerous scientists, physicians, and specialists to aid in their efforts. One of the first organisms they used was Variola major.
The Unit was alleged to be a water purification team. They were based in Pingfang, China, where they worked out of a filtration facility that was actually a front for their illegal researches and experiments on human subjects. The number of deaths caused by these tests ranges from 3,000 to 200,000 casualties.
Unfortunately, after the end of WWII, the United States and the newly formed United Nations (UN) granted amnesty to the researchers of Unit 731 in exchange for their knowledge and information. Many of these scientists later found themselves working for many of the countries that had been of the Allied side of the war, including in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Soviet State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR), and in the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).
ERADICATION
In September 1978, the last known case of smallpox occurred. The victim was a young medical photographer named Janet Parker. She died of the disease after she was exposed to it when it escaped from a research facility in Birmingham,...

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