Bioterrorism the Virus Smallpox Used as a Biological Weapon Term Paper

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smallpox as a weapon against societies. The writer explores the viability of using smallpox as a weapon as well as some of the things societies have done to prepare for such a possibility. In addition the education of the American public for such an attack is discussed. There were seven sources used to complete this paper.

Bioterrorism has been a concern of the United States for many years. During most skirmishes, following 9-11 and of course during and after the onset of the war in Iraq, Americans were concerned about the release of bio-chemical warfare. One of the more common concerns recently has been small pox. Small pox is something that if released on the world could cause hundreds of thousands if not millions to perish. The American government has voiced concerns about Saddam Hussein's ability to implement such an attack, as well as Al-QADA forces being able to do so. As these concerns became public, the public became aware that in actuality any nation or group that had the desire to use small pox against its residents, will be able to do so with some planning and some funding. This realization has created significant concerns throughout America recently and the race to prevent a catastrophic reaction has begun. The United States cannot prevent its enemies from developing the smallpox virus, or using it against the nation, but it can promote the education of the American public to minimize any damage if an attack should occur.

On December 9, 1979, smallpox, the most deadly human virus, ceased to exist in nature. After eradication, it was confined to freezers located in just two places on earth: the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Maximum Containment Laboratory in Siberia. But these final samples were not destroyed at that time, and now secret stockpiles of smallpox surely exist. For example, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the subsequent end of its biological weapons program, a sizeable amount of the former Soviet Union's smallpox stockpile remains unaccounted for, leading to fears that the virus has fallen into the hands of nations or terrorist groups willing to use it as a weapon (Preston, 2002)."

The concern has been in existence since before the cold war with the former Soviet Union but of late it has increased in its possibility of use. The federal government of the United States recently expressed concerns that several nations possess illegal smallpox virus stockpiles (Gedda, 2002).

Smallpox was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980, but concerns that it may be revived for use as a weapon have prompted the U.S. administration to consider vaccinating U.S. citizens and to prepare emergency plans should an outbreak be detected (Gedda, 2002).

The disease historically has killed about a third of its victims and can be transmitted from person to person, unlike some other biological weapons such as anthrax (Gedda, 2002)."

The nation has good reason to fear the small pox virus as research has concluded it killed more people than all wars and all epidemics combined. The symptoms vary in severity but usually cumulate in death by hemorrhaging that becomes massive and body wide.

France has been working for several years on programs to combat potential small pox outbreaks from terrorist attacks and the United States has recently begun to follow suit.

Russia is thought to have a great deal more smallpox in its stockpiles than the small amount allowed for them under international agreements, according to the officials (Gedda, 2002).

Ken Alibek, a former top scientist in the Soviet biological weapons program who came to the United States in 1992, said the Soviets covertly developed smallpox as a weapon in the 1980s (Gedda, 2002). "


The symptoms of small pox are similar to other diseases, illnesses and disorders, with the exception of the tell take lesions that are small pox exclusive. While several diseases produce lesions it is not difficult to discern the small pox lesion from the other disorders as evidenced in the below photograph. In addition there are several steps that the center for disease control suggest medical professionals compare when faced with determining a possible smallpox outbreak. In addition to the below chart of lesion characteristics small pox causes fever, headache, stomach ache, a rash, and several other symptoms. While these symptoms can be classic of many disorders and illnesses the below chart illustrates the clear cut path that small pox lesions take as compared to chickenpox the disorder most often confused with small pox.

On the Net: Center for Disease Control and Prevention smallpox page: (

Varicella (Chickenpox) and Smallpox

Chickenpox is the condition most likely to be confused with smallpox. To differentiate chickenpox from smallpox, compare symptoms as listed in the following table.

Chickenpox day 3

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Smallpox day 3

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Chickenpox day 5

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Smallpox day 5

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Chickenpox day 7

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Smallpox day 7

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In chickenpox

In smallpox

No prodrome or mild prodrome

Febrile prodrome observed 1-4 days before rash onset

Lesions are superficial vesicles (" "dewdrop on a rose petal" appearance).

Lesions are deep-seated, firm or hard, round, well-circumscribed vesicles or pustules; as they evolve, the lesions may become umbilicated or confluent.

Lesions appear in "crops"; on any one part of the body, there are lesions in different stages of development (papules, vesicles, crusts).

On any one part of the body (e.g., face or arm), all lesions are in the same stage of development, that is, all are vesicles or all are pustules.

Lesions distributed centripetally rather than centrifugally; in other words, the greatest concentration of lesions occurs on the trunk, while the fewest lesions occur on arms and legs (distal extremities). Lesions may appear on face and scalp. Occasionally, the entire body is affected.

Lesions are distributed centrifugally; that is, lesions are more heavily concentrated on arms and legs.

First lesions appear on the face or trunk.

First lesions appear in the mouth (oral muscosa or palate), face, or forearms.

Patients are rarely toxic or moribund.

Patients appear toxic or moribund.

Lesions evolve rapidly, developing from macules to papules to vesicles to crusts in less than 24 hours.

Lesions evolve slowly, with each stage of development lasting 1-2 days.

Palms of the hands and soles of the feet are rarely involved.

Vesicles or pustules appear on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.

Patients lack a reliable history of chickenpox or chickenpox vaccination.

Patients have been vaccinated for chickenpox or have had chickenpox.

50%-80% of patients recall an exposure to chickenpox or shingles 10-21 days before onset of rash.

Patients do not recall recent exposure to chickenpox.


The U.S. cannot stop a nation from developing small pox programs in secret, but it can work to educate its public about how to protect itself from the disease in the event of an attack (Plan, 2002).

The first thing the federal government has mandated is that clinics around the nation will be open for 16 hours per day in the event of an attack. This will be for the purpose of vaccinations as people rush to receive theirs when the attack occurs (Plan, 2002). This rush is anticipated because at this time the government does not recommend the routine vaccination of those who are not in high risk positions. Service personnel, medical personnel and certain government personnel have all received recommendations to receive small pox vaccinations because in the case of an attack and an outbreak these are the people who will be exposed through their jobs and positions (Plan, 2002). The general public however has not been asked to receive vaccinations for several reasons (Plan, 2002). The first reason is because of the limited supply of vaccine currently available. The second reason is that the risks have not been fully assessed and the government hesitates to promote a nationwide vaccination program without having more time to study any possible consequences or risks to being vaccinated.

The United States has 155 million doses of smallpox vaccine on hand and should have 280 million doses - enough for everyone - by the end of the year, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The CDC and its parent Health and Human Services department issued guidelines to state and local clinics for how to handle a mass vaccination should it become necessary (Plan, 2002)."

From just one person, smallpox could spread exponentially through a vulnerable population. Americans haven't been vaccinated against smallpox since 1972, so there are millions of people who could conceivably become infected in a matter of weeks."It's not pretty to think through these types of doomsday scenarios, " said Marty Cetron of the Centers for Disease Control, but necessary "if you want to anticipate how to react (Experts, 2002)."

As the nation again begins to relax with little evidence of bio-terorrism research coming out of the Iraq war statistics…

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