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Smallpox gets stay of execution.

 Smallpox gets stay of execution. But should it?

Smallpox is been removed from the environment for almost 30 years now. Today however, smallpox is still making the headlines. This time it's all about the smallpox stores we keep as pets in our laboratories. Apparently since marking 30 years since smallpox was eradicated from nature the World Health Organization set deadlines for destruction of stores a smallpox virus around the world. June 30, 2010 was the latest deadline to come and go. The execution date for smallpox virus stores started way back in 2006. Another date was set in 2007 and ultimately 2010… and now has been due for until 2011.

At the center of the concern for smallpox that virus stores is security. Security not only in the United States at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but in the former Soviet Union as well.

Is it prudent to continue to keep smallpox virus stores on hand? So much research has already been done on this virus but one has to question what further use it could be. Is it solely to produce vaccine should smallpox reemerge in nature?

One concern I have is the lack of general knowledge about smallpox amongst emergency responders. Nearly every class I teach I asked the responders: “where do we see smallpox today?” Most of the time people answer they see smallpox cases and some Third World country when in fact smallpox as mentioned, has been removed from our environment completely. This lack of knowledge leads to increased concern about the virus continuing to live in labs. Smallpox is in fact one of the most dangerous diseases we could face in the event of a biological attack. We haven't vaccinated anyone in the United States against smallpox since 1980. And those who were vaccinated prior to that have questionable immunity to the virus.

These two factors alone underscore the need to destroy this virus.

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