In the 20th century alone, an estimated 500 million lives succumbed to smallpox, making it the sole human disease to have been eradicated. However, a new report, the Future State of Smallpox Medical Countermeasures asserts the necessity for both the United States and the global community to prepare for a potential return of smallpox. This resurgence could occur either accidentally or as a deliberate act, as highlighted in the report.

The evaluation conducted in this study focused on the current status of research, development, and stockpiling of medical countermeasures (MCMs) against smallpox.

The report further emphasizes that readiness for the reappearance of smallpox is crucial not only for containing its spread but also for preventing the transmission of other diseases caused by viruses within the Orthopoxvirus genus.

Outbreaks associated with poxviruses, identified in monkeys since 1958 and in humans since 1970, have predominantly occurred in Central and West Africa.

Dr Zhilong Yang, an associate professor in the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Department of Veterinary Pathobiology and a member of the committee behind the report, remarked in an April 12, 2024 press release, "Smallpox vaccines and drugs also offer promise in preventing and treating mpox and related viruses. This underscores the importance of ongoing research and development of medical countermeasures, including diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics."

Despite only two laboratories, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), officially housing collections of the smallpox virus, the possibility of an accidental release remains minimal. However, the accessibility of public genetic sequences of the virus could enable its recreation, particularly with advancements in synthetic biology and artificial intelligence.

"Even a single smallpox outbreak would pose a significant global challenge, necessitating unwavering vigilance," Dr Yang emphasized. "Scientists and healthcare professionals must also remain alert to the similarities between smallpox symptoms and those of diseases like mpox, which have been more prevalent in recent times. Rapid identification would be crucial in the event of a smallpox outbreak."

What Is Smallpox?

Smallpox is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal infectious disease caused by the variola virus. It is characterized by fever and a distinctive skin rash that forms small, raised bumps filled with fluid.

There are two forms of smallpox: variola major, which is the more severe form, and variola minor, which is less common and generally less severe. Variola major had a mortality rate of about 30%, while variola minor had a mortality rate of about 1%.

Smallpox is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets, typically from close contact with an infected person. It can also be spread through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces.

The disease has been a major scourge throughout human history, causing widespread epidemics and high mortality rates.

Signs And Symptoms Of Smallpox

Smallpox, caused by the variola virus, manifests with a range of signs and symptoms. Here are the key ones:

Fever: It typically starts with a high fever, often exceeding 101 degree F (38.3 degree C).

Malaise: A general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness is common.

Headache: Patients often experience headaches, which can be severe.

Severe fatigue: Profound tiredness or weakness is a common symptom.

Backache: Pain in the back can be present.

Vomiting: Nausea and vomiting may occur, particularly in the early stages.

Rash: This is the hallmark symptom of smallpox. The rash usually starts on the face, particularly around the mouth and nose, and then spreads to the rest of the body. The rash begins as small, red spots which quickly turn into raised bumps. These bumps progress into fluid-filled blisters (pustules) over the course of about a week.

Conjunctivitis: In some cases, inflammation of the conjunctiva (conjunctivitis) can occur, leading to redness and irritation of the eyes.

These symptoms typically develop within 7 to 17 days after exposure to the virus, with an average incubation period of about 12 to 14 days. Smallpox is a highly contagious disease, and it can lead to severe illness and even death in some cases.

2024-04-17T10:57:46Z dg43tfdfdgfd