The Smallpox Vaccine
Smallpox is one of the most contagious diseases known to mankind. It attacks persons of all ages. In severe epidemics, 30 of 100 persons contracting the disease may die. In mild epidemics, the death rate may be less than 1 in 100. Significantly, in those areas where few people had been previously exposed for years to the disease, the death rate is higher when an epidemic strikes. In past centuries, large numbers have succumbed to this plague.
SMALLPOX AND ITS VACCINE
Name. Smallpox (variola major) is caused by a filterable virus, called variola. It is a type of orthopoxvirus, or pox-producing virus.
Transmission. Smallpox is transmitted by tiny droplets of moisture transmitted during coughing, sneezing, and even talking. The disease can even be transmitted through clothing, bedclothes, and utensils.
Symptoms. The first signs and symptoms of smallpox usually appear 12 to 14 days after infection, although the incubation period can range from 7 to 17 days. During this time, an infected person may look and feel normal.
A few days later (usually 3-4 days after the disease begins), the characteristic smallpox rash appears as flat, red spots (lesions) on the skin. Within a day or two, these spots have raised and become blisters filled with fluid (vesicles) and then with pus (pustules). On about the 14th day, they reach their largest size.
Physicians can clearly identify smallpox from similar diseases (such as chicken pox) from the fact that the spots usually appear first on the face, hands, and forearms, then on the trunk and legs. They may be especially prominent on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Lesions also develop in the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth, and vagina.
The skin distribution pattern of the pox (lesions, or spots) is quite different in chicken pox: In this disease, the lesions are more superficial than those associated with smallpox; and they occur primarily on the trunk. Chicken pox comes in waves—with spots, blisters, and crusted lesions all present at the same time.
Lab tests. Lab tests can, of course, also be used for diagnostic purposes. Fortunately, researchers at the Mayo Clinic, working with those at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Army, have recently (summer of 2002) developed a new rapid laboratory test for the smallpox virus. The test can deliver results within three hours.
Simple math. The CDC estimates that, at the very least, each known case will infect 3.5 to 6 additional people. At that rate, the disease could sweep through the general population. It would be especially difficult to control a smallpox outbreak in any of our large cities.
A chilling possibility. William Bicknell of the Boston University School of Public Health wrote: “If I were a terrorist, I’d get 10 infected people to come to the country, go to a ball game, Penn Station, Union Station, the Times Square subway station . . By then, a lot of people would be exposed. And there is no possible scenario I can conjure up where those [exposed] people can be identified.”—Boston Globe, Sept. 24, 2002.
After effects. If the patient survives, the fever drops, the blisters dry up, and he begins improving. Scabs form and later drop off. Red or brown discolorations remain. In severe cases of skin eruptions, pockmarks always remain on the skin.
Prevention. Careful, temperate living and eating only good, nutritious food builds a strong immune system and helps prevent a wide variety of diseases. However, smallpox is so virulent, that exposure to a person who has it could likely lead to infection.
Vaccination. It is generally believed that the only way to successfully combat smallpox is by vaccination, which was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner, an English physician. He used cowpox germs as a method of preventing smallpox. All clothing and eating utensils used by the patient should be sterilized.
Smallpox can attack a person who has been vaccinated more than five years prior to exposure; but the previous vaccination may still limit the severity of infection.
Before 1971, vaccinations against smallpox were routinely available in the United States. They were given to children between the ages of 1 and 2 years old, and then every five years.
Smallpox was eradicated in the United States in 1949. The last case, worldwide, occurred in 1977. So one might think that should forever solve the problem. Unfortunately, as we will learn below, it only added to it.
Shared samples. Two high-security laboratories possess samples of the variola virus. One is in Russia and the other in the United States. It is considered very likely that quantities of the virus have fallen into the hands of countries who want to use them as weapons.
No one is prepared. The problem, of course, is that no one on the planet has contracted smallpox in over 25 years. Therefore, any outbreak of it would quickly decimate thousands of people. Regardless of whether it initially occurred in the Near East or the U.S., it is doubtful that it could be contained. Instead, it would quickly spread to other nations. There is an enormous amount of surface, sea, and air travel today. A vast number of merchant ships journey from continent to continent.
CDC action plan. The CDC has a response plan in case of a smallpox outbreak. The people in contact with those infected would be vaccinated first. This would be medical workers. Anyone with an active infection would be isolated, to prevent infection of others. The CDC points to the fact that the vaccine can prevent or lessen the severity of smallpox, if given within 4 to 7 days of becoming infected.
Partial immunity. It is known that those who were vaccinated before 1972 (when those vaccinations ended in the United States), might still have partial immunity to smallpox. Yet the vaccine loses full effectiveness in 5 to 10 years. If infected, such people might have milder symptoms, less chance of dying, and be less contagious. Yet, in case of an outbreak, the CDC recommends that everyone be vaccinated again.
It would be nice if we could stop here. But there is more information.
The immune system problem. It is known that those with medical conditions such as severe eczema, immune-system suppressing conditions, or pregnancy could contract the full-blown disease if given a smallpox shot.
On September 24, the Boston Globe reported that 20,000 health care workers will receive the smallpox vaccine. This is a serious matter. Some of those receiving it, if their immune system is in poor shape, could experience severe side effects—and either develop vaccinia, a type of smallpox, or spread it.
“Doctors, nurses, and others who receive the smallpox vaccine might need a three-week furlough because, in rare cases, the vaccination could spread sickness, the [CDC] plan says. Under the draft plan, the vaccine would be given on a voluntary basis to health workers in emergency rooms or ambulances and specialists in skin disease. The main risk of the vaccination is that a small number of people who receive it could have severe side effects or, in some instances, die from the dosage.”—Michael Kranish, Boston Globe, September 24, 2002.
The HHV-6 factor. The number of medical workers who might suffer adverse side effects could be far worse because the CDC has not told the American public about a massive epidemic of immune dysfunction associated with a virus called Human Herpes Virus 6 (HHV-6).
There are several different types of herpes infection: Herpes simplex (Type 1) is a mild form which causes cold sores on the lips.
Herpes zoster causes chicken pox and, as a secondary infection, shingles. Shingles is something you do not want.
Genital herpes (Type II) is also very serious, and is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease in America.
Serious immune damage from HHV-6. This is the disease that is hardly ever mentioned. Like Type II, it has the same cause; but it more severely affects the immune system. The problem is that, because they show no symptoms, people usually do not realize that they have HHV-6. Yet all the while it is seriously weakening their body’s immune factors. It is almost impossible to cure.
HHV-6 was first isolated in 1986 from people with AIDS. It has since been found to be relatively common in the population as a whole, although those with AIDS almost always have it. HHV-6 is frequently diagnosed as “chronic fatigue syndrome.” The scientific community agrees that HIV damages the immune system more than almost any other infection. Yet HHV-6 damages the immune system almost as much as HIV. The cause of HHV-6, and the lack of symptoms, are the reasons why this widespread disease is often diagnosed as something else.
Random sampling tests have consistently disclosed that a very large number of Americans have the HHV-6 virus. As mentioned earlier, it is well-known, in the medical community, that people with weakened immune systems should not be vaccinated for smallpox—because the vaccine would transmit the disease to them.