The Use of Variola major in Bioterrorism

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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.


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.



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.


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 numer...

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