Small Pox : How prepared are we?

Smallpox is believed to have emerged in human populations about 10,000 BC. The disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year during the 18th century (including five monarchs), and was responsible for a third of all blindness. Of all those infected, 20 to 60% and over 80% of infected children died from the disease.

During the 20th century, it is estimated that smallpox was responsible for 300-500 million deaths. In the early 1950s an estimated 50 million cases of smallpox occurred in the world each year. As recently as 1967, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 15 million people contracted the disease and that two million died in that year.

After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the WHO certified the eradication of smallpox in December 1979. To this day, smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely eradicated.

The last cases of smallpox in the world occurred in an outbreak of two cases (one of which was fatal) in Birmingham, England in 1978. A medical photographer, Janet Parker, contracted the disease at the University of Birmingham Medical School and died on 11 September 1978,after which the scientist responsible for smallpox research at the university, Professor Henry Bedson, committed suicide. In light of this accident, all known stocks of smallpox were destroyed or transferred to one of two WHO reference laboratories; the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionState Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in Koltsovo, Russia. In 1986, the World Health Organization recommended destruction of the virus, and later set the date of destruction to be 30 December 1993. This was postponed to 30 June 1995. In 2002 the policy of the WHO changed to be against its final destruction. Destroying existing stocks would reduce the risk involved with ongoing smallpox research; the stocks are not needed to respond to a smallpox outbreak. However, the stocks may be useful in developing new vaccines, antiviral drugs, and diagnostic tests.

In March 2004 smallpox scabs were found tucked inside an envelope in a book on Civil War medicine in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The envelope was labeled as containing scabs from a vaccination and gave scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention an opportunity to study the history of smallpox vaccination in the US.

Now the fear is

What if the Outbreak Occurs again?

Only for Learning Purpose

Fact sheet: Derieved from Wikipedia

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  1. December 30, 2009
  2. January 5, 2010

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