Definition of Smallpox bioterrorism

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Smallpox bioterrorism: The misuse of smallpox as an agent of bioterrorism.

Smallpox was eradicated in 1977. Routine vaccinations stopped in the US in 1972. More than 40% of Americans and many others around the world have not been vaccinated and are vulnerable. Those who were vaccinated only once are also thought vulnerable.

Smallpox is contagious It spreads from person to person through the air and kills about 30% of unvaccinated persons. Should smallpox be reintroduced, it could spread throughout the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has concentrated all known samples of the smallpox virus in two laboratories, one in the US and one in Russia.

There is no treatment for smallpox, but there is an effective vaccine. Prevention is dependent upon public health and intelligence agencies.

There has been concern about smallpox as a possible weapon for bioterrorism. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress, in a 1999 report considered smallpox to be a "questionable" biologic threat for terrorism, because of the limited availability of the agent and difficulty processing it. However, the virus is very stable. Its lethal effects were deemed by the GAO to be "moderate to high" and the consequences of an attack are "deemed especially serious."

For more, please read Facts About Smallpox - Bioterrorism.


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