Tags: U.S. | Bioterrorism | Alert | for | Smallpox

U.S. on Bioterrorism Alert for Smallpox

Thursday, 31 May 2001 12:00 AM

The last known case of smallpox in the world occurred in 1977, and immunization shots are no longer given. Most physicians in the United States have never seen a case of smallpox.

Until placed back on the list of reportable diseases, it is unlikely that any health professional would even consider smallpox when making a diagnosis. All that will change in the cities receiving three-year grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After someone is exposed to the smallpox virus, the incubation period is between seven and 17 days and usually starts with fever and headache and general fatigue. Then lesions appear that are somewhat similar to chicken pox, usually starting on the face and legs and progressing to the rest of the body. The sores are deeper than chicken pox and leave scars. It becomes communicable from the time of appearance of the first sores until all scabs from the sores have disappeared, which could be two or three weeks.

The disease is spread by droplets in aerosol form. Usually about 20 to 40 percent of the cases are fatal, though modern intensive care may reduce mortality rates.

Smallpox is unique. According to Peter Katona, assistant professor of medicine at UCLA who works with the Los Angeles health department on bioterrorism issues, one case would be an epidemic.

"Smallpox is extremely highly contagious. You don't get one case. You get a lot of cases .... There is no immunity in the community .... It spreads like wildfire .... There's nothing like smallpox. It's incredibly contagious. There are cases where people were walking down the street a hundred yards away, outside a building and they got it .... It's an airborne pathogen."

Patients would need to be placed in isolation, preferably in a room with a negative air pressure, to avoid dispersal. Plans would need to be made for vaccine distribution, ambulances, overloaded hospitals and dealing with the media, Katona told United Press International - a scenario he described as "utter chaos."

Jonathon E. Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County, told UPI: "The earlier we can find the problem the less overall damage will occur from spread. If you look at what has happened in Africa with ebola, for example, early identification is really important to preventing spread. What we're working on is to make sure we are as prepared as possible … We want to increase the index of suspicion."

Because of the extremely contagious nature of the disease, special laboratories and laboratory methods must be used when working with specimens from patients. Sydney Harvey, the director of the Los Angeles public health laboratory, said that "the county's public health laboratory has undertaken special renovation and trained microbiologists to work with specimens considered suspicious for bioterrorist microorganisms."

If there is suspicion that a case has appeared, the FBI, the CDC and the state health departments would be notified immediately.

The driving force behind putting smallpox back on the list of reportable diseases is the fear that some smallpox virus may fall into the wrong hands. By international agreement, the smallpox virus is kept only at the Centers for Disease Control and at an institute in Moscow.

Smallpox vaccine used to be mandatory in the U.S. until 1972, at which point, after there not being a case in the U.S. for about 40 years, the requirement was dropped. There have been laboratory accidents leading to small pox since 1977, but there have been no naturally occurring cases since then.

According to testimony given by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as of 1999 there had been a steady increase in the number of terrorist threats involving bioterrorism, with the most common agent being anthrax. According to FBI testimony in 1999, there were 129 weapons of mass destruction cases opened by the FBI, of which 100 threatened the use of biological agents. The FBI testimony said that terrorist groups in the U.S. and around the world have continued to demonstrate an interest in bioterror weapons.

Los Angeles, New York and Chicago are supporting their surveillance programs with grants made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for $800,000 a year for three years.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

All rights reserved.

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
1Like our page
2Share
Pre-2008
The last known case of smallpox in the world occurred in 1977, and immunization shots are no longer given. Most physicians in the United States have never seen a case of smallpox. Until placed back on the list of reportable diseases, it is unlikely that any health...
U.S.,Bioterrorism,Alert,for,Smallpox
706
2001-00-31
Thursday, 31 May 2001 12:00 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved