Smallpox: A Threat?

Essay by iostream.hCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2005

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The dangers of smallpox exposure are considerable, yet can be lessened if viewed appropriately and treated with action rather than fear. Smallpox is a naturally occurring substance, first believed to have muxed "with the human species somewhere between 3,000 and 12,000 years ago" (Richard Preston 150). The results are tragic when a natural outbreak occurs, but would be even more devastating if the outbreak were to be caused by a weaponized strain. We as a world must evaluate the threats and remedy them to the best of our abilities. These threats include where is the virus located, who has it, and what would happen if vaccinations didn't work on a weaponized strain. These are the most pressing issues in the quest to eradicate a potential biological massacre.

Variola, the scientific name for smallpox, means "spotted" in Latin. Developing spots in the form of pustules and scabs is just one of the many symptoms that can result from varying strains of the smallpox virus.

The virus comes in two distinct forms. These include variola minor and variola major. Variola minor is the less potent of the two subspecies, killing one out of every three unvaccinated individuals infected. In vaccinated individuals, there is only a three percent mortality rate. The more potent form, variola major, neutralizes closer to 50% of its victims. Initial symptoms include, 7 to 17 days after exposure, fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, and severe muscle aches. A rash then results which forms many pustules, predominantly on the face and extremities. If the infection is fatal, the skin will split, causing extreme pain, leading to death. Depending on the person's natural immunities, extreme smallpox may result, which is also known as black pox. Black pox does not cause the skin to pustulate, but instead blood will collect...