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Small Pox :
"If you took a gram of smallpox, which is highly contagious and
lethal, and for which there’s no vaccine available globally now, and released
it in the air and created about a hundred cases, the chances are excellent that
the virus would go global in six weeks as people moved from city to
city……the death toll could easily hit the hundreds of millions…..in scale,
that’s like a nuclear war."
-Richard Preston, the alarmist, again.
THE most serious biological weapon. With most countries having
NO smallpox vaccine stocks and with the general immunity against smallpox almost
non-existent, an outbreak of small pox (especially of a genetically modified
strain with greater infectivity and mortality) would lead to a catastrophe
unparalleled in history.
Sequential progress of smallpox lesions. Please click on the images to view
larger versions. The new pictures will open in a separate window.
Without question the most disturbing clinical photo I have ever seen. Click on
the photo to view a larger version.
Most Biological scientists find the contention that Smallpox virus is stored
in only two laboratories in the world ( CDC, Atlanta and Institute of Viral
Precaustions, Moscow)) laughable. The
former USSR had an extensive biological program in which smallpox
figured prominently. According to Ken Alibek ( the no.2 scientist in the USSR
program, who subsequently defected to the US) : "Iran, Iraq,
probably Libya, probably Syria, and North Korea could have smallpox"
Even more alarmingly, Ken Alibek disclosed that
Russian scientists have manufactured various recombinant viruses. eg. A Ebola-SmallPox
hybrid which was known as ebolapox and a VenuzuelanEncephaitis-Smallpox hybrid
which was known as VeePox.
These "chimerical" organisms as they are called are *much* more
infective and have a *much* greater case fatality rate than either of the
original organisms.The discussion below is limited to the SmallPox virus in its natural state
and not to the frighteningly real "Chimeras" :
Small pox is relatively easy to cultivate in a lab. However, since it is a
virus, it's definitely more difficult to do so as compared to anthrax.
Furthermore, its would be obviously very difficult to get your hands on a vial
full of smallpox viruses to start off your cultivation in the first place.
Hence, if you planning to become a bioterrorist when you grow up, I don't think
you are going to be pleased with the score in this category..
Ease of Delivery:
Sorry... no outstanding marks here either... Smallpox being a virus, obviously
does not have spores, and the viruses themselves are quite susceptible to
adverse environmental conditions and require a special medium and temperature.
Russian missiles designed to carry these bioweapons into enemy territory had
refrigerated warheads to protect the viruses from the heat of re-entry into the
Aha! Here is where the attraction of this bug as a bioterrorist weapon lies:
Smallpox, unlike Anthrax, CAN be transmitted from person to person. And consider
this.. Smallpox is as contagious as chicken pox. And we all know how contagious
chicken pox is don't we?
And oh of course, considering the fact that no one has had an attack of small
pox or has been immunised in the world in the past 21 years ( in 1980, the world
was declared free from small pox by the WHO) many many more people will be
susceptible to small pox as compared to chicken pox.
Much as I hate it, I have to give full marks to he bug here.. Although the
rating here reads 5/5 it should probably be 10/5 or something in that range.
Before 1980, the mortality rate of smallpox was around 30-50% i.e. 30-50 of
every 100 people infected with smallpox died.
It is *impossible* to make an estimation of the mortality rate now, since it
would be higher with the newer artificial variants of the virus and because of
the unknown immune status of the majority of the population. Obviously, ALL the
antibiotics are useless against smallpox since it is caused by a virus.
However, since we have to give some sort of rating to the bug here, we will
choose to ignore this factors, and base our assessment on the deadliness of the
bug before it was "eradicated"
The danger with smallpox (at least with the natural version of the
disease) does not lie in its case fatality rate. The danger lies in its incredible
Interesting Facts :
1) In 2000, CDC awarded a contract to Oravax of Cambridge, Massachusetts to
produce smallpox vaccine. Initially producing 40 million doses, Oravax
anticipates delivery of the first full scale production lots in 2004.
2) In May 1999, WHO granted another stay on the destruction of the remaining
known stocks of the SmallPox virus until 30 June 2002.The stocks were due to have been
destroyed in 1993, and again in 1995, but each time scientists pleaded that they
needed to continue studying them.
3) Total current
estimated stocks of Smallpox vaccines in the WORLD :
Total estimated population of the world:
6 Billion ( or 6000
Time taken to manufacture new
stocks of Vaccines:
24-36 months (2-3 years)
Estimated time taken by a smallpox epidemic to reach global proportions:
6-8 weeks (1- 2 months)
* All figures, except the last, have been reproduced from Center for Civilian
Biodefense studies, a US govt. organization. The last statistic is an estimate
by Richard Preston, who is quite an pessimist really... but then .. how off the
mark can he be? Even if you double or treble his estimate, it will only take
around 5 months for the disease to become global, in which time NO new stocks of
vaccine can be manufactured.
4) Operation Dark Winter :
This was a very large simulated test conducted by the US Govt. in June
2001 in collaboration with many of the prominent Universities in the US, including Johns
Hopkins which is the top ranked Univ. in the US in the field of Biology. A FULL copy of the exercise
can be downloaded from the "Free Reading Material" section. It reads
almost like a story book, with details about the political conditions in Iraq,
conditions preceding the bioterrorist attack etc..
In short : A bioterrorist attack
with a small number of smallpox virii occurs in the US on December1. By
December. 22 , the total number of cases in the US alone is 16,000 and vaccine
stocks are rapidly decreasing. The disease starts spreading globally.
By the end of January, the no of small pox cases is 3 million in the US alone.
ALL of the vaccine in the world has been exhausted, except for some US military
stocks. Russia, China and other countries strenuously demand that the US release
these stocks on humanitarian grounds. All of the American citizens have NOT been
At this stage, the exercise was discontinued, probably since there was no
point in going further.