One of these scourges was smallpox, a highly infectious and deadly disease that causes boils to sprout on the entire body. Once endemic to the entire world, it has been wiped out with mass vaccination efforts by the World Health Organization with the last reported case being in 1977 in Somalia (Tucker 118). The threat of the virus still looms over us, however, with the advent of the age of terrorism. Its transmission method (human to human), the lack of effective treatment, its high mortality rate, and its ease of weaponization has compelled the Centers for Disease Control to classify it as a Category A bioterrorist agent with the highest potential for use as a weapon against civilians (Ryan 41). The smallpox disease is caused by the Variola virus, a virus of the Orthopox family, which also includes cowpox, monkeypox, and other related diseases (Tucker 5).
Smallpox Treatment Smallpox has threatened our world for the past twelve thousand years. Treatments were desperately searched for until a cure called variolation was discovered. Variolation is the use of the virus placed into a being to which they will receive the illness to a lesser degree and overcome the illness forming an immunization to it. This process was started in China and went worldwide after Lady Montagu took the process from Turkey and informed the British about it. From here the process set fire and spread across Europe, curing many, but also killing them too.
Smallpox had been one of the world’s most feared diseases which killed hundreds of millions of people and scarred and blinded millions more. Smallpox, which is caused by variola virus, is a severe, often fatal, highly contagious disease. The name smallpox is derived from the Latin word for “spotted” and refers to the raised bumps that appear on the face and body of an infected person. It is characterized by high fever and distinctive skin rash that frequently leaves permanent deep-pitted scars. Smallpox varies in severity from a mild, difficult-to-recognize form without skin manifestations to a highly fatal hemorrhagic form.
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).
Bioterrorism - Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Abstract Viral hemorrhagic fever is one of the most feared diseases of today's time. Although most people have heard of anthrax, smallpox and the plague, viral hemorrhagic fever has become a potent weapon used for bioterrorism, silently killing its victims and instilling fear in the rest of the population. Viral hemorrhagic fever can be divided into 4 families. Although each family of viral hemorrhagic fever may have some of its own unique characteristics, the four families are generally fairly similar regarding the high fevers and hemorrhages they cause. Because of past outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fever, scientists have reason to believe that terrorists have easier access to the deadly viruses and therefore are more likely to use the virus to kill and scare the general public.
VARIOLA VIRUS SMALLPOX INTRODUCTION The Variola virus, which is the most virulent member of Genus Orthopoxvirus, is the causative agent of smallpox. It specifically infects humans. The primary reason for infection in humans is due to its ability to evade the host immune responses, and avoid complement activation. Over the centuries, this naturally occurring virus has spread throughout the earth, through various environments, to cause severe outbreaks. The most devastation outbreak had a case-fatality rate of 40 percent in individuals who have not been vaccinated.
Much later in 1751, Thomas Sydenham found further differentiating characteristics between the two diseases(Aufderheide, 202). Through the years, with its many outbreaks in varying areas across the planet, smallpox claimed millions of victims. Many rulers and soldiers were killed by this incredibly infectious disease. To prevent and hopefully stop the increasing numbers of deaths due to smallpox, many physicians slaved away to invent and find a cure for this disease. The first effective method of prevention was called variolation.
The Vaccination and Eradication of Smallpox Smallpox, a disease caused by the variola virus, has devastated humanity for many centuries. Because of its high mortality rate, civilizations around the world sought to protect themselves from this disease. Throughout the 1700's, these protective methods became more sophisticated, and led up to Edward Jenner’s vaccination method in 1796. Indeed, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and the Agency for International Development began a joint program to eradicate smallpox in 1967. It utilized methods of mass vaccination, surveillance, and containment.
Smallpox: Different Types and their Symptoms Smallpox as a devastating disease for thousands of years – it killed 300 million people just during the 20th century. There are two forms of the virus: Variola major (the deadlier) and Variola minor. Richard Preston in The Demon in the Freezer describes its effects on the body saying, “The virus had stripped the skin off the body, both inside and out, and the pain… seemed almost beyond the capacity of human nature to endure” (Sherman, pg 197). The two strains of smallpox discussed in this paper give insight to the symptoms of the now eradicated smallpox. Fulminating smallpox was insanely hard to detect, because the patient usually died before symptoms of smallpox could even appear.
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.