The big story in the news lately is the war on terrorism and the threat of a smallpox epidemic unleashed by some unknown force. Talk is now surfacing about mass vaccinations to protect everyone from smallpox. This is a topic with a lot of emotion behind it but lets take a calm look at the facts. Since I am not an epidemiologist, I looked to the experts to give us some answers.
The book Disease and History by Frederick Cartwright explores the history of smallpox. It was first described in writing by Ko Hung of China who lived in the third century AD. It was documented to exist throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Over the centuries the virus would come and go throughout the world and tended to run in cycles. Its strength as an infection was lessening and it eventually effected mostly the poor, diseased and malnourished by the late 1800's.
Inoculations against the disease started in China over 1000 years ago. They would take scrapings from a crusted lesion, powder it and blow it up someone's nose. This would give them a mild case of the disease and give them immunity from the more deadly strains of the virus. Inoculations continued for centuries in various forms. Though the inoculated people suffered a milder form of the disease, they were still infectious and this spread the disease to even more people. What Jenner did in 1796 was to take the infection of a cowpox lesion off the hands of a dairymaid named Sara Nelmes and scratched it into the skin of a boy, James Phipps. Several weeks after that he inoculated the boy with smallpox from an infected person but the boy never developed any of the symptoms of the disease. Jenner called the cowpox virus Variolla vaccinae and this was the beginning of modern vaccinations. Since it did not have any of the smallpox virus in the vaccination, they weren't spreading the disease like the inoculations did. It did have the cowpox virus that made some people very sick, too. Regardless, this quickly became the miracle solution in the eyes of medicine and governments. Unfortunately, the statistics didn't prove vaccinations to be the savior they thought it was. Many areas that were fully vaccinated still suffered from epidemics of smallpox. Also, the disease rate was falling rapidly in areas and countries that received no vaccinations at all. The disease was running its course due to improvements in public sanitation and hospital hygiene that reduced the spread of the disease.
THE DISEASE OF SMALLPOX
From the CDC web
site at www.cdc.gov you can find this information
and more about smallpox.
What are the symptoms of smallpox?
The symptoms of smallpox begin with high fever, head and body aches, and sometimes vomiting. A rash follows that spreads and progresses to raised bumps and pus-filled blisters that crust, scab, and fall off after about three weeks, leaving a pitted scar. If someone comes in contact with smallpox, how long does it take to show symptoms?
After exposure, it takes between 7 and 17 days for symptoms of smallpox to appear (average incubation time is 12 to 14 days). During this time, the infected person feels fine and is not contagious.
Is Smallpox fatal?
The majority of patients with smallpox recover, but death may occur in up to 30% of cases. Many smallpox survivors have permanent scars over large areas of their body, especially their face. Some are left blind. ***Well, they sort of went overboard here. If you get the virus in your eyes from either the vaccination or smallpox, you could go blind in that eye. In 1900, 21,064 smallpox cases were reported, and 894 patients died -- that is 4.2 percent.
How is Smallpox spread?
Smallpox normally spreads from contact with infected persons. Generally, direct and fairly prolonged face-to-face contact is required to spread smallpox from one person to another. Smallpox also can be spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing. Indirect spread is less common. Rarely, smallpox has been spread by virus carried in the air in enclosed settings such as buildings, buses, and trains. Smallpox is not known to be transmitted by insects or animals. *** Transmission of smallpox occurs only after intense personal contact, defined by the CDC as constant exposure, occurring within 6-7 feet, for a minimum of 6-7 days. Transmission through bed clothing contamination is extremely rare. The virus is NOT spread in food or water.
How many people would have to get smallpox before it is considered an outbreak?
One confirmed case of smallpox is considered a public health emergency. *** A bit excessive considering how difficult this disease is to spread!
Is smallpox contagious before the smallpox symptoms show?
A person with smallpox is sometimes contagious with onset of fever (prodrome phase), but the person becomes most contagious with the onset of rash. The infected person is contagious until the last smallpox scab falls off.
Is there any treatment for smallpox?
Smallpox can be prevented through use of the smallpox vaccine. There is no proven treatment for smallpox, but research to evaluate new antiviral agents is ongoing... ***Echinacea is a good anti-viral and immune stimulator that can be taken every day before and during the disease.
Receiving the Vaccine
The smallpox vaccine is not given with a hypodermic needle. It is not a shot as most people have experienced. The vaccine is given using a bifurcated (two-pronged) needle that is dipped into the vaccine solution. When removed, the needle retains a droplet of the vaccine. The needle is used to prick the skin a number of times in a few seconds. The pricking is not deep, but it will cause a sore spot and one or two droplets of blood to form. The vaccine usually is given in the upper arm. If the vaccination is successful, a red and itchy bump develops at the vaccine site in three or four days. In the first week, the bump becomes a large blister, fills with pus, and begins to drain. During the second week, the blister begins to dry up and a scab forms. The scab falls off in the third week, leaving a small scar. People who are being vaccinated for the first time have a stronger reaction than those who are being revaccinated
After vaccination, it is important to follow care instructions for the site of the vaccine. Because the virus is live, it can spread to other parts of the body or to other people. The vaccinia virus (the live virus in the smallpox vaccine) may cause rash, fever, and head and body aches. In certain groups of people complications from the vaccinia virus can be severe. ***Here is where the blindness can occur. Scratch the vaccination site and then scratch your eye.
The Rest of the Story
Originally, the panel of experts recommended to the government that 15,000 front line medical personnel might need to be vaccinated at the most. The government arbitrarily raised this number to 500,000 and some say 10 million. The Homeland Security Bill has a small provision protecting the drug companies from any liability arising out of problems that may occur from using the vaccine (http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/terrorism/hsa2002.pdf). The vaccine contains mercury, aluminum, antifreeze and a live virus that can cause a lot of serious health problems. The Gulf War Syndrome has been blamed on all the vaccinations our troops got before going into the Middle East. These chemical soups have not been double blind tested like most drugs so we end up being the lab rats for the drug companies! Lastly, I heard on the radio today that 16 Colorado hospitals are refusing to vaccinate their staff due to the serious side effects experienced with the smallpox vaccine.
Smallpox Myths, Exposed
There are many good sites on the Internet to find out more about the myths and the truths of smallpox and other vaccines. Dr Mercola's web site has several good references from a number of experts (www.mercola.com). The National Vaccine Information center (www.909shot.com) is a non-profit organization that has been around for 20 years educating parents about vaccinations. Dr. Len Horowitz gives you tons of information on a variety of subjects at www.tetrahedron.org. and more information on smallpox is at www.vaclib.org/basic/smallpoxindex.htm.
My suggestion on smallpox or any other vaccine is to get thoroughly educated on the pros and cons of each injection and make your own choice from there. Don't let anyone scare you into making your decision. You have to be happy with your choice since you must live with the consequences.