If a virus such as smallpox has killed around 300 million people in the 20th Century alone, why then are there two places on Earth that still keep the last remaining vials of the deadly disease? It was one of history’s biggest viral killers up until 1975. That was when the last case of smallpox occurred in a two-year old girl who lived in Bangladesh. After thirty years of working to eradicate smallpox, on May 8, 1980, the World Health Organization announced it had succeeded. WHO wrote that the world and the people on it had won freedom from smallpox. It stated the disease was devastating and happened epidemic form through numerous countries and had since the beginning of time, causing death and disfigurement in its path.
However, smallpox was officially stamped out over three decades ago, and now the only remnants are only a couple of samples of the virus on the planet. There are only two places in the world where the smallpox is now kept. The World Health Organization has declared a CDC lab close to Atlanta, Georgia and also the Vector Institute in Koltsovo, Siberia as those locations.
At the present, both keep the virus in facilities which are considered at bio-safety level four. This level of safety is considered the very highest that is possible. It necessitates that researchers wear positive pressure suits which look like space suits and they include a fastened air supply. Any manipulation with the smallpox virus, which is kept in liquid nitrogen reservoirs, is done in biosafety cabinets. When they leave the lab, scientists must spend seven minutes inside a chemical shower in order to sanitize themselves, followed by a rinse of water. No air is able to leak from within the bio-safety rooms, and every year the CDC lab is closed down for a month or so to go through precautionary upkeep measures.
But how can scientists and researchers be sure there are no other smallpox samples anywhere else on the planet such as in a terrorist hideout, or kept inside a vial in the back of some old ancient freezer? WHO states that there is no way to prove that but things do seem to look good that the disease is only in the United States and Russia at the CDC and Vector. Since the 1970’s, experts believe that no one on Earth has had the smallpox disease. Also during this same time, there have been no terrorist groups of any kind that have come forward and claimed they have any containers of the disease. There also have never been any rumors that have ever circulated of smallpox being hidden in a secret lab somewhere.
The reason smallpox was able to be eliminated, unlike the majority of most fatal viruses, such as yellow fever, Ebola, malaria, HIV or influenza, smallpox does not have any animal hosts. So then without any human incubators, the virus was unable to exist naturally.
Now those very last virus samples in Atlanta and Russia just may be heading for the eradication block. This coming summer, the World Health Assembly, which basically speaks for the WHO will decide if the CDC lab in Georgia will destroy the smallpox samples it has. However, the Russian group in charge has regularly voted against such a choice, so there is a big chance that Russia will not go along with the decision if the voting is in favor of destroying the smallpox virus. For the United States, it would look very embarrassing for America not to go along with what WHO recommends. It would be like the country was thumbing noses at the United Nations.
Yet, it is not just the Russians who want to keep smallpox around. Several researchers state that much more investigation is needed to be done on the multifaceted genetics of the smallpox virus, which might aid in the making of better antivirals. Other examiners believe that the majority of studies could be done with less dangerous viruses that are similar.
It is true that an outbreak of smallpox this day and time would cause yet another catastrophe, but there are actual more terrible things which could be released on the world’s population. However, smallpox was beaten once and it could be beaten again.
Even so, the smallpox virus killed around 300 million people in the 20th Century alone. That is something that is extremely scary.
By Kimberly Ruble
In A Gist News