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Biological Weapons: Could Smallpox Be Used as a Weapon

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In the United States of America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta categorized several diseases and organisms worldwide that can possibly be used as biological weapons during wartimes. According to the CDC, biological weapons comprise of any organism including bacterium, fungi, viruses, and even pollutants that are found naturally, and which can be used to injure or kill individuals or groups of people. Biological toxins are vicious chemical substances, which are produced by organisms. Bioterrorism act can vary from a small spoof to an actual usage of any of the biological weapons, which are also referred to as biological agents. Many nations throughout the world have previously or are currently pursuing the acquisition of biological warfare agents. This has brought several concerns that terrorist organizations or individuals could also take on these technologies and knowledge of using these caustic agents.

Biological warfare agents are either used for planned and secluded assassinations, and are used to cause handicap and cause deaths to thousands of individuals. The act of bioterrorism is a very ancient one world over. For instance, the German Army who developed anthrax, cholera, and wheat fungus explicitly for use as biological warfare agents during the First World War. In addition, Iraq started an invasive program of biological weapons creating anthrax, aflatoxin, and botulinum toxin. Smallpox is alleged to have come from Africa, and then spread to India and later to China, approximately ages ago. Throughout the ages, smallpox has shown to be one of humanity’s greatest dreads and it is very hard to explain the misery and horror that the disease has continued to inflict. Smallpox mainly spreads from an individual to the next by drop nuclei from the oropharynx of an infected individual, or through direct contact with an infected victim. In addition, clothing that are contaminated with the virus can spread smallpox infection.

Smallpox as a Biological Weapon

Smallpox virus infection is both extremely transmissible and deadly and that is why it could truly bring devastating outcomes if used as a bioterrorist weapon. Notwithstanding the worldwide achievement in the efforts of eliminating smallpox; this variola virus is still a dangerous virus and according to CDC, the virus is categorized Category A biological warfare agent. Initially, smallpox’s first instance of use as a biological weapon occurred and was recorded in the North American continent during the Indian and the French War. Another instance was the smallpox outbreak in Fort Pitt, which gave the British the idea of disbursing smallpox to the French side of Native Americans.

During the French and Indian Wars between1754 and 1767 when the British forces in North America used smallpox as a biological weapon, the soldiers dished out blankets that had previously been used by individuals with smallpox. This intent initiated smallpox epidemics amongst American Indians causing over 50% of m to die and other tribes affected (Stearn & Stearn 1945). In a report by Alibek, since the beginning of 1980, the Soviet authorities commenced on a successful program meant to develop large quantities of the smallpox virus and adapt the virus for usage in their bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) (Broyles 2005). This smallpox program had an engineering capacity that was able to produce numerous tons of smallpox viruses yearly.

During the 1974 Cold War, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics started a noncombatant drug company named Biopreparat. The Soviet Union was to use the company as their front for its biological weapons program. A Soviet microbiologist—Vladimir Pasechnik, who turned traitor in 1989, gave information on how the Soviet was conducting their smallpox program to India. In his confessions, Vladimir was particular about the contagious worry of the smallpox virus that was to be used as a biological warfare agent (Wheelis, Ro%u0301zsa & Dando 2006). To succeed in using smallpox as a biological weapon, scientists have used embryotic from chicken, which helped them cultivate large quantities of smallpox virus. Reports have suggested that North Korean biological warfare agent program also carried out a discreet study on smallpox as one of the possible biological weapons (Croddy 2002).

Research indicates that during the Second World War, science researchers from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Japan took part in a research project that looked into creating a biological warfare agent from smallpox. The project was a success, however, the plans for an extensive virus production never pulled through because the researchers discovered that the plan would fail due to the wide-scale accessibility of a smallpox vaccine internationally. In 1947, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics set up a smallpox weaponry plant in the Zagorsk city, which is 75 km northeast of Moscow. Unfortunately, in1970s, there was an outbreak of the weapon-made smallpox, thought to have possibly occurred during try out at the factory (Miller, Engelberg & Broad 2002).

In 1970 in Germany, the smallpox virus was communicated speedily and efficiently throughout a well-immunized population, that it raised concern on the possibilities of disseminating the aerosolized variola. This unexpected outbreak started with a German electrician personnel who was returning home from Pakistan. Within minutes of the first case, the virus spread like wildfire with some cases occurring because of exposure in the hospital where the electrician was taken for treatment. Many people habiting different floors of the hospital building where the electrician passed by got the virus very fast (Wehrle, Posch, Richter & Henderson 1970).

An outbreak of the rare and hard to identify hemorrhagic-type variola occurred in Yugoslavia even though the nation had ensured a continuous nationwide immunization to safeguard against imported cases. However, just one previously immunized hajji pilgrim returning home from Mecca brought an undiagnosed febrile disease and within a very short span of time, 11 of his friends and relatives that interacted with him were also taken ill with similar symptoms. Shockingly, four weeks after the illness of the first patient, 150 people were also infected. This shows the high rate of infection and spread of the smallpox virus (Ajay 2002).


The threat that biological warfare agents such as anthrax and smallpox can be used both on military forces and on populations of civilians is now very likely compared to any other point in the history of the world. As a possible agent used in biological warfare, smallpox poses a threat that appears very heavy on the horizon. However, even with all the eminent threats, smallpox was eradicated several years ago. That is why any instance of smallpox in the present world would clearly be the result of a deliberate and terrorist act. Many health ministries throughout the world are always on high alert in any case of a single confirmed smallpox case of would be taken as an emergency. This would be the case also because there is no treatment for smallpox, and the only way to prevent it is through vaccination.

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